Whether you're single, looking for fun or in a committed relationship, it's important to take a few precautions if you're not ready to or don't want to have children.
There are many contraceptive choices to consider, so it's wise to research each method to determine which one is right for you.
Commonly known as The Pill, it is 99% effective when taken correctly.
How it works: The Pill works by either preventing a woman's ovaries from releasing eggs each month, or by keeping the sperm and egg apart. The hormones contained in the pill make the mucus thick at the top of the womb, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. The womb lining also thins, reducing the chances of a fertilised egg being implanted and growing.
Male condoms are a form of contraceptive that is 98% effective when used correctly.
How it works: Condoms provide a barrier form of contraception. They work by preventing any sperm from the ejaculate coming into contact with the woman's vagina, where it can travel and reach the eggs. Condoms also provide protection against STIs when they are used correctly during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Female condoms work in the same way but are worn inside the vagina – they are 95% effective if used correctly.
The contraceptive implant consists of a small flexible tube around 40mm long that is inserted under the skin on the upper arm. It lasts for 3 years and is more than 99% effective when implanted correctly.
How it works: The implant works by releasing progesterone steadily into the bloodstream. This continuous release of progesterone stops a woman from ovulating and thickens the mucus of the cervix, thereby making it difficult for sperm to travel up the womb and reach an unfertilised egg. The lining of the womb is also made thinner so it's unable to support a fertilised egg.
This is a sticky patch that delivers hormones into the body – the same hormones that are found in the combined pill. It is 99% effective when used correctly.
How it works: The contraceptive patch measures 5x5cm and is placed onto the arm. Again, the patch works by preventing ovulation and thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to travel through the cervix. As it also thins the womb lining, there is less chance of any fertilised egg being implanted.
This is a soft plastic ring that's inserted into the vagina. It is left in the vagina for 21 days and then removed and thrown into the bin. Seven days later a new ring is inserted for the next 21 days. It is 99% effective when used correctly.
How it works: The vaginal ring releases oestrogen and progesterone, preventing ovulation and thereby making it more difficult for the sperm to get to the egg, while also thinning the womb lining as with many of the other hormonal contraceptives.
There are two kinds of contraceptive injections: the Depo-Provera, which lasts for 12 weeks, and Noristerat, which lasts for 8 weeks. If used correctly, the contraceptive injection is more than 99% effective.
How it works: The injection contains progesterone which thins the womb lining, thickens the mucus in the cervix and in some cases prevents ovulation altogether.
This is a small T-shaped device, made from copper and plastic, that's inserted into the womb by a trained doctor or nurse. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
How it works: The IUD releases copper that changes the fluids within the fallopian tubes and the womb, stopping sperm from fertilising an egg and the egg implanting in the womb.
This is a small plastic T-shaped device that is more than 99% effective when inserted correctly.
How it works: The IUS releases progesterone into the womb, thickening the mucus in the cervix and making it difficult for sperm to travel and reach the egg.
This is a method that involves plotting the fertile times of the month and engaging in sexual intercourse only when the risk of pregnancy is reduced. It's around 99% effective when followed correctly.
How it works: for this method to work, the woman has to look out for and record signs of ovulation, such as body temperature and cervical secretions. This helps identify when it's safe to have sex or when the risk of pregnancy is highest.
If you would like more information about the various contraceptive methods, visit our contraception information page.