Contraception is what we use during sex to prevent pregnancy. Check out the various contraceptive options here with details and advice on using each one...

What is it?

We use contraception to prevent pregnancy when we have sex.

What are my options?

  • Condoms
  • The Pill
  • Diaphragms and caps
  • IUD (Inter-Uterine Device)
  • Contraceptive injections and implants
  • Natural (or rhythm) contraception


Condoms are your best bet for protection against STIs.

The male condom is a thin sheath of latex rubber or polyurethane that fits over a boy's erect penis, while the female condom is made of polyurethane and loosely lines the girl's vagina. They block sperm from getting into the girl's vagina to stop her getting pregnant.

Full details are in our Condom factfile.

95-98% effective.

The Pill

The Pill is a tablet taken by a woman usually so that she can have sex without getting pregnant. Users must remember to take the pill every day at a similar time. There are two kinds: the combined pill and the progestogen only pill. Different brands offer different levels of hormones which will affect each person differently - your GP will be able to advise. Some women on the pill experience side effects such as headaches, nausea or weight gain. Women may try different brands before they find one they're comfortable with. Full details are in our pill factfile.

Over 99% effective.

Diaphragms (pronounced 'di-a-fram') and caps

Diaphragms are rubbery dish-shaped things to be inserted into the vagina. Caps are smaller versions. They fit over the cervix (entrance to the womb) blocking sperm, and you use a spermicidal cream or gel too. See your GP or family planning clinic if you think you want one; they'll show you how to insert one, which you'll use every time you have sex. It sounds fiddly - but if you can put in a tampon, you can manage a diaphragm. A diaphragm is only used when needed, and means we don't have to remember to take a tablet.

92-96% effective.

IUD (Inter-Uterine Device)

Also called a coil, this tiny plastic or copper device is inserted inside the womb and stops fertilised eggs from sticking and implanting, preventing a pregnancy. It has to be inserted by a trained doctor. It can make periods heavier and more painful, and doesn't stop us getting STIs. But once it is in, that's it for five years - you don't have to think about contraception every day.

98% effective.

Contraceptive injections and implants

These work in a similar way to the progestogen-only pill. With the injection, the hormone progesterone is injected into a woman's body and protects her from pregnancy for 8-12 weeks. With implants, a tiny tube containing progesterone is placed under the skin of the woman's arm, protecting her for three years. Injections and implants are good if you prefer not to take tablets every day. They can make periods unpredictable, or go away altogether.

More than 99% effective.

Natural (or rhythm) contraception

This is where a woman only has sex on days she is less likely to get pregnant. She works this out with a diary of her menstrual cycle and taking her temperature. This works best for couples who wouldn't mind if they had a baby. Some people mistakenly think withdrawal - removing the penis before ejaculation (coming) - is a method of contraception. But it's extremely unreliable as sperm are released before ejaculation.

Natural (or rhythm) methods are not reliable and aren't recommended for young people.

REMEMBER: It's against the law in the UK to have sex if you're under 16. See the Age of Consent factfile for more information. But it is not against the law to ask for advice, information and contraception. So if you're thinking of having sex, don't wait until you're legal before getting the contraception sorted.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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