To find your nearest contraceptive service click here or call 0300 3003030.

This brief guide groups contraceptives according to how often you have to remember to do something to make sure you're protected against pregnancy.

For some young people, this can be an important factor in their choice of method. Others might be more influenced by how the methods work, or by what side-effects they may have.

You know yourself best - you might feel sure that you could remember to take a pill every day. Or maybe you think your life is too chaotic for that. Maybe you don't want to have to think about contraception every day - or even once a week.

You're the one who has to decide which method you're going to rely on but it can be helpful to talk to someone who can help you with your decision. You can make an appointment to talk to a contraceptive nurse on 0300 3003030.

In order to make an informed decision, you need to know about all the available contraceptives and their various pros and cons. You don't have to be having sex already to use this information - in fact, it's much better to have a plan about contraception before you start having sex.

You can learn more about contraceptives, and find clinics and services near you (including special clinics and services for young people), on these websites:

If you want to talk with someone, you could try one of these special young people's helplines:
Sexwise: 0800 28 29 30
Brook: 0808 802 1234

All of these helplines will be answered by someone who has experience of talking about sex and sexual health with young people. They will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Or you may prefer to talk with your family doctor or practice nurse - or a parent, teacher, youth worker or other adult you trust.

Remember: the NHS provides FREE, CONFIDENTIAL contraceptive services for men and women of all ages, including those under 16.

To find your nearest contraceptive service go to



how they work

All contraceptives work in one of these three ways:

  1. they put a physical barrier between sperm and egg (such as condoms);
  2. they use hormones that stop the body releasing an egg and cause other changes that prevent a pregnancy happening (such as pills, patches and the IUS); or
  3. they change the environment in the womb so that sperm die before they reach an egg (IUD/Coil). Remember: condoms are the only contraceptive that also offers protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).



emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can prevent a pregnancy if you have had sex without using contraception or if you think your usual method may not have worked, for example, missed pills or had a condom failure. The two emergency methods available are

  • the emergency pill or "morning after" pill which is a hormone containing tablet. The emergency pill is a single pill which should always be taken as soon as possible but can be used up to 3, or sometimes up to 5 days after unprotected sex. You can get it free from contraception clinics, GPs and some pharmacies. The sooner emergency contraception is taken the more effective it will be
  • the intrauterine device (IUD), often called the "coil". The IUD is a copper covered plastic 'T' shaped device which is inserted into the womb by a trained doctor or nurse. The procedure takes about twenty minutes and can be done up to 5 days after unprotected sex, or even later in some circumstances. This is the most effective method (practically 100%). It can be kept in to provide on-going contraception. It can be arranged through contraception clinics (phone 0300 3003030) or some GPs.

For full details of where to go for emergency contraception see

Any of the helplines listed (left) can help you find services in your area.