Outwitting sperm is important if you don't want to get yourself, or your partner, pregnant. Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies are not uncommon in the UK and they can have a huge impact on a person's life, especially for those who are not ready for a baby. No contraception is 100% effective, but you can improve your sexual safety by researching and understanding which method of prevention is going to be most effective for you. There are many factors that can hinder the effectiveness of contraception and it's important to keep this in mind when you're choosing how to proceed; for example, the contraceptive pill is going to be a lot less effective if you forget to take it…
Barrier Contraceptives - the condom is one of the most commonly used contraceptives available in the UK and probably the one that's easiest to get your hands on. An over-the-counter preventative that is often available for free in clinics, the condom is easy to use and not only helps to prevent pregnancy; it is the only contraceptive that protects you from STIs as well.
Hormonal Contraceptives - contraceptive pills are 99% effective and are taken by around 2 million women in the UK. 70% of all UK women have taken the pill at some point in their lives. With a number of options available it is possible for women to choose an option that suits them. Many women try a few different contraceptives before finding the one that ensures they are as healthy and as comfortable with their contraception as possible. Hormonal contraception is also available in other forms, such as the implant, injection, patch and vaginal ring. Implants, for example, work in a similar way to the pill and provide longer-acting contraception that removes the possibility of missing doses.
Non-Hormonal Contraceptives - the intrauterine device (IUD) releases copper rather than the hormone progesterone, and is therefore potentially more suitable for those who have experienced problems with contraception that affects their hormone levels. Effective for between five and ten years, this contraceptive can be used by most women but bear in mind that, as with all but barrier contraceptives, it does not offer protection against STIs. Non-hormonal contraception is preferable for many women who suffer from conditions such as migraines and problems with blood circulation, sometimes meaning that hormonal contraceptive are not an option.
Natural Family Planning - is a method favoured by people who, for various reasons, prefer not to use other forms of contraception. It can be up to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy when followed correctly. The method involves working out on which days of the month a woman is most fertile and avoiding sexual intercourse on those days. Most woman can only become pregnant on the days surrounding ovulation, so for this contraceptive method to work, she must monitor her cycle and body to discover when she is fertile. Signs of fertility include changes in body temperature and cervical secretions, although these can also be affected by factors such as illness and stress. It is thought that is takes 3 to 6 menstrual cycles to learn how to use this method.
The factors that can influence a person's choice of contraception vary from person to person, and something that works for one person might not work for another. Researching and making the right choice is important for your sex life and reproductive health. If you want to find out more about the various contraceptive options, you can visit our contraception section or take a look at the NHS advice page.