Contraception is free for most people in the UK. With 15 methods to choose from, you’ll find one that suits you.
Contraceptive methods allow you to choose when and if you want to have a baby, but they don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms help to protect against STIs and pregnancy, so whatever other method of contraception you’re using to prevent pregnancy, use condoms as well to protect your and your partner’s health.
Where to get it
Contraceptive services are free and confidential, including to people under 16 as long as they are mature enough to understand the information and decisions involved. There are strict guidelines to for care professionals who work with people under 16.
You can get contraception free from:
- most GP surgeries (talk to your GP or practice nurse),
- community contraceptive clinics,
- some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics,
- sexual health clinics (these offer contraceptive and STI testing services), and
- some young people’s services (call 0800 567123).
Many of these places also offer information, testing and treatment for STIs. If you’ve been exposed to the risk of pregnancy, you’re also at risk of catching an STI.
Before you make an appointment, make sure you’re as informed as possible about the contraceptive options available. People’s choice of contraception may vary over time, depending on their lifestyle and circumstances.
Contraception and menopause
Women who have sex with men and don’t want to get pregnant need to keep on using contraception until they haven’t had a period for more than 12 months (menopause).
This is because periods can become irregular before they stop entirely, and pregnancy can still occur during this time. Find out more about menopause.
The methods of contraception
There are lots of methods to choose from, so don’t be put off if the first thing you use isn’t quite right for you; you can try another. You can read about each of the different methods of contraception by visiting these pages:
- Combined pill
- Condoms (female)
- Condoms (male)
- Contraceptive implant
- Contraceptive injection
- Contraceptive patch
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Intrauterine system (IUS)
- Natural family planning
- Progestogen-only pill
- Vaginal ring
There are two permanent methods of contraception:
To find your nearest contraception clinic you can use the NHS Choices service search. Enter your postcode, click ‘search’, then click ‘contraception’.
You can also look in the phone book under ‘sexual health’, or use the fpa clinic finder.
You can find out more about each type of contraception by contacting:
- FPA: provider of information on individual methods of contraception, common sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy choices, abortion and planning a pregnancy. www.fpa.org.uk
- Brook: the young people’s sexual health charity for under-25s. www.askbrook.org.uk
In addition to your chosen method of contraception, you need to use condoms to prevent STIs. Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they’ve been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don’t have the CE mark won’t meet these standards, so don’t use them.