It helps to be prepared

Whether you’re new to the world of contraception or have years of experience, it’s important to make the most of your family planning discussions. After all, choosing the right contraceptive is an important decision in every woman’s life.

Having an open, honest conversation with your doctor or nurse will help to ensure your needs and preferences are understood, and that you leave the consultation with the most appropriate advice. It also always helps to come prepared, having investigated the available options beforehand.

For example, ask yourself these simple questions:
  1. What qualities does your ‘ideal’ contraceptive have? Perhaps you’re particularly concerned about using hormonal contraception, or perhaps reliability is the most important factor for you.
  2. Is your current contraceptive meeting those ideals? If not, how could it be improved?
  3. Do you have any health problems or lifestyle considerations that your doctor should be aware of? E.g. have you had a blood clot in the past, are you overweight, do you smoke?
  1. Is there anything that worries you or that you particularly like about some of the contraceptives available? E.g. remembering to take your pill every day, the idea of having something put inside you, your periods stopping altogether, etc.
  2. What are your periods like? The right contraceptive could help make your periods lighter, less painful and more regular, if desired.

Contraception and Sexual Health clinic locator

Doing things online is fine but changing your contraception usually requires an appointment or prescription. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk face to face.

You can get a prescription for contraception from your GP surgery but if you prefer to go to a separate clinic then click on the link below and enter your postcode to find the location of your nearest C&SH clinic.

C&SH LOCATOR

Frequently asked questions

We have pulled together a list of questions and answered them for you below. Whilst we’ve done our best to make sure the information is accurate, it is not designed to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

  • How can I work out which contraceptive is best for me?
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    Of course all of us want a contraceptive that works but perhaps you are particularly concerned about having to remember to take it every day, the hormones used or a health condition you have. Whatever your needs, there is a suitable contraceptive available.

    Start off with our conversation guide to help prepare for an appointment with your doctor or nurse. You can also find out more about all the contraceptive options available to you here.

  • Will all contraceptives protect me from sexually transmitted infections?
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    Only condoms (female and male) offer protection against sexually transmitted infections.

  • What is the most effective contraceptive method?
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    The IUS, IUD and implant are the most effective forms of reversible contraception because you don’t need to remember to take them every day. They’re over 99% effective in real-life use.

  • What are LARC methods?
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    LARC stands for long-acting reversible contraception. It refers to contraceptives that you don’t need to take every day but that are not permanent. LARCs can last from 8 weeks to up to 10 years, depending on which method you use. They can also be discontinued at any time (apart from the contraceptive injection, whose effect lasts for 8–13 weeks, but can be discontinued after that). LARC methods include the IUS, IUD, injection and the implant.

  • How old do you have to be to start using LARC methods?
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    LARC methods are suitable for most women who need contraception. Your doctor or nurse will be able to help you select the method that would be right for you.

  • What’s the difference between the IUD and the IUS?
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    The IUD or intrauterine device is also known as the copper coil. It doesn’t contain any hormones, instead it works by releasing a small amount of copper which changes the composition of the fluids in the womb and fallopian tubes, preventing the sperm from surviving. The IUS on the other hand is a small, flexible plastic device that releases a continuous, very low dose of a progestogen hormone to prevent pregnancy. There are several types available that come in different hormonal doses and sizes. To read more about the IUD and the IUS as well as other types of contraceptives click here.

  • I’ve got really heavy periods/get really bad period pains/have really irregular periods, are there any contraceptives that could help?
    See answer Close answer

    Hormonal contraceptives could help. For example, the COC pill can help to reduce spotting as well as make periods lighter, less painful and more regular. The patch can also help to make periods lighter as can the IUS, depending on which type is chosen. Some of the IUS can be prescribed for the treatment of heavy periods, also known as heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB). Read more about the benefits of all the contraceptives available here.

  • I’m going through the menopause. Do I need a contraceptive?
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    Yes. You won’t be fully protected from pregnancy until you’ve had 12 consecutive months without a period. So even if you have a few months without a period, you can still get pregnant. Speak to your doctor about using an appropriate method of contraception.

  • Will my fertility be affected if I choose a long-acting method?
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    Your fertility will return to your normal levels when you stop using any contraception (apart from sterilisation), the time it takes for your fertility to return however will vary. When the IUS, implant or IUD are removed from the body, fertility usually returns very quickly. Fertility is likely to be affected for up to one year with the injection.

  • Are there any contraceptives I don’t have to take every day?
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    Yes. LARCs (long-acting reversible contraceptives), the vaginal ring and the patch have longer-lasting effects but vary in the length of time that they’re effective. For example, LARCs can last from 8 weeks to up to 10 years, depending on which method you use, whereas the patch and vaginal ring require weekly or monthly replacement. But they can also be discontinued at any time (apart from the contraceptive injection, whose effect lasts for 8–13 weeks, but can be discontinued after that).

  • Can I get pregnant if I use contraception?
    See answer Close answer

    The simple answer is yes. No method of contraception works 100% of the time but some methods are far more reliable than others. The IUS, IUD and implant are all more than 99% effective in typical use. That’s because there’s less room for error — once your doctor or nurse has fitted them for you, you don’t need to remember to do anything for them to work. Whilst other methods could be just as effective if used correctly, women may not always remember to take them perfectly, which means they are far less effective with typical use. Read more about the benefits and considerations of different contraceptives here.

  • What side effects will I get if I start taking hormonal contraception?
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    Different contraceptives come with different side effects but hormonal contraceptives may be associated with headaches, increased appetite and weight, feeling sick, breast tenderness, mood changes, breakthrough (unexpected) bleeding and spotting. Not all women will experience side effects and many women find that side effects wear off after a few months of starting a new type of contraception. There are also side effects that many women consider to be positive, such as lighter and less painful periods or periods stopping altogether.

  • Can I take hormonal contraceptives if I have a health problem or am taking medication?
    See answer Close answer

    Your doctor will be able to help you decide which contraceptives are suitable for you depending on any health conditions you already have. Speak to your doctor to get more information that’s tailored to you.

  • Are there any non-hormonal contraceptive options I can try?
    See answer Close answer

    There are a number of non-hormonal contraceptives. Read more about them here.

  • I don’t want to have children/any more children. Are there any permanent solutions I can consider?
    See answer Close answer

    There are permanent solutions for both men and women. Sterilisation may be an option if you are sure your family is complete. Read more about the options here.

  • Where can I go to find out more about contraception?
    See answer Close answer

    You can read more about contraception on the NHS Choices website or the FPA website. Your GP’s clinic or your local sexual health clinic will also be able to provide information and advice on which method could be best for you. You can find your nearest sexual and reproductive health services here.

  • What should I do if I’ve had unprotected sex or I’m worried my contraceptive has failed?
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    Emergency contraception is a backup method that can be used when something goes wrong. There are two kinds — pills (sometimes referred to as the morning after pill) or an intrauterine device (IUD, sometimes referred to as the copper coil).

    Depending on the emergency contraceptive pill taken, it can be taken up to 72 hours or 120 hours after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, however the sooner you take it the more effective it is. You can get the emergency contraceptive pill from your pharmacist, doctor or nurse.

    The IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the womb and contains copper. It can be used as emergency contraceptive up to five days after unprotected sex. The IUD needs to be fitted by a doctor or nurse.

    If you’ve had unprotected sex or are worried your contraceptive has failed, speak to a healthcare professional about whether one of these methods could be right for you.

    Read more about emergency contraception on the NHS Choices website.

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Always speak to your doctor or nurse for personal medical advice. Health information in this website is intended as general information and for UK audiences only. It is not intended to replace a consultation with a healthcare professional, nor is it intended to provide specific medical advice.

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All contents © Bayer 2016. All rights reserved. Date of preparation: May 2016