Contraception is a way to prevent pregnancy, and is sometimes called ‘birth control’. Some forms of contraception such as condoms can also help reduce the spread of sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

When choosing your contraception method, you should discuss it with your partner and consider:

  • your lifestyle
  • possible side effects
  • cost
  • effectiveness
  • protection against STIs.

Common contraception methods

The pill


  • a latex or polyurethane sleeve worn by men on their penis or by women in their vagina
  • helps to protect against pregnancy and STIs
  • available from supermarkets, pharmacies, sexual health clinics, family planning clinics, and community based sexual health organisations.

Contraceptive implant

  • a small, flexible rod that is placed under the skin in a woman’s upper arm
  • releases a form of the hormone progesterone which stops the ovary releasing the egg and thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb
  • needs to be replaced after 3 years
  • requires a small procedure using local anaesthetic to fit and remove the rod
  • must be fitted by a doctor or nurse.

Contraceptive injection

  • a simple injection into a muscle on the top part of a woman’s bottom
  • lasts approximately 12 weeks
  • contains a form of the hormone progesterone which stops the ovary from releasing an egg and thickens the mucus of the cervix so the sperm cannot enter the uterus
  • must be given by a doctor or nurse.

IUD (Intrauterine Device)

  • a small device that’s inserted into the womb
  • lasts 5-10 years
  • stops sperm from reaching the egg, and can also stop a fertilised egg from implanting
  • must be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse

For more contraceptive options and advice, visit True relationships & reproductive health or Children by Choice.

Emergency contraception

The Emergency Contraception Pill (ECP) can be used to prevent pregnancy after sex if:

  • contraception wasn’t used
  • a condom has broken during sex
  • a woman has been sexually assaulted.

The emergency contraceptive pill contains special doses of female hormones (progestogen and possibly oestrogen) and can prevent pregnancy in a couple of ways:

  • if ovulation has not already occurred, it can delay ovulation. This means a delay in the egg being released from the ovary, so fertilisation by the sperm can’t occur.
  • if an egg has already been released and fertilised by sperm, the pill can prevent the fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus. This means a pregnancy cannot develop.

When taken in the first 3 days after sex, the ECP prevents about 85% of expected pregnancies. However it may still be useful if taken up to 4 or 5 days after sex. Try and obtain it as soon as possible to have the best chance of it working.  Any woman can take emergency contraception, even those who cannot take other oral contraceptive pills. Side effects are minimal but may include nausea and vomiting. The timing of your next period could also change.

It doesn’t provide protection against sexually transmissible infections.

The emergency contraceptive pill can be bought over the counter at your local pharmacist or chemist, or through your local doctorTrue relationships & reproductive health or sexual health clinic.

Watch an animated movie about:

  • using condoms
  • emergency contraception.