Contraception FAQs

On these pages you will find frequently asked questions about contraception.

We have tried to answer as many questions as possible on emergency contraception and planning contraception. But if you can't find what you're looking for here, you can get in touch with Ask Brook. Ask Brook is confidential. That means we won't tell anyone you contacted us unless we think you're in really serious danger.

Click on the link below for frequently asked questions on:

Emergency Contraceptive pill FAQS

How does the EC pill work?
Does the EC pill always work?
Where can I get the EC pill from?
How do I know the EC pill has worked?
Is the EC pill suitable for all women?
Can I get the EC pill for my partner/friend?
Will the EC pill make me feel sick or ill?
Are there any side effects?
Will it affect my periods?
How many times can I use the EC pill?
Can I still take my regular contraceptive pill after I've taken the EC pill?
Can I get the EC pill in advance?
If I took the EC pill yesterday, but had unprotected sex today, am I still covered?

How does the EC pill work?

The emergency contraceptive pill is a tablet containing progestogen, a hormone which is similar to the natural progesterone women produce in their ovaries.

The emergency contraceptive pill can stop an egg being released or sometimes it can stop a fertilised egg being able to implant in the womb.

Does the EC pill always work?

The emergency pill is very effective and it is more effective the sooner you take it after unprotected sex. Here are some things which can make the emergency contraceptive pill less effective:

  • If you delay taking the emergency pill, the EC pill is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours
  • If you vomit within two hours of taking the pill
  • If you have had unprotected sex at another time, either since your last period or since taking the emergency pill.

If any of these things have happened it's a good idea to speak to a nurse or doctor at a Brook service, a young person's service, family planning clinic or GP surgery and they can let you know what you need to do next.

Where can I get the EC Pill from?

  • Brook services (for under 25s)
  • family planning clinics
  • young people's services
  • GPs (not in Jersey)
  • NHS walk-in centres
  • most sexual health/GUM clinics
  • some accident and emergency departments
  • some pharmacies (not in Jersey)

How do I know if the EC pill has worked?

If you took the EC pill according to instructions and you get your next period as normal, it is unlikely that you're pregnant.

If your period is lighter or shorter than usual or you miss your next period or withdrawal bleed (if you're on the combined contraceptive pill) then you should see a nurse or doctor. They may ask you to do a pregnancy test.

Is the EC pill suitable for all women?

Most women can use the emergency contraceptive pill. You can take the EC pill even if you can't use the combined pill or contraceptive patch. It's also safe to use the EC pill if you are breast feeding.

Your nurse, doctor or pharmacist will ask you a few questions to make sure that you can take the EC pill. Some prescribed medicines and complementary medicines such as St John's Wort do affect the EC pill and you may need to take a higher dose of the emergency pill may or you may need to use the copper IUD.

Can I get the emergency contraceptive pill for my partner/friend?

It is not possible to get the emergency contraceptive pill on behalf of someone else. You can't buy it from the chemist for someone else either. This is because the doctor or pharmacist will need to ask the women a few questions to make sure that the EC pill is safe for her to take.

Will the emergency contraceptive pill make me feel ill or sick?

It's unusual for the emergency contraceptive pill to make you sick. But some women do report feeling a bit dizzy, sick or tired after taking it.

If you are sick within two hours of taking the EC pill then you should speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist as soon as possible as the pill may not have been absorbed into your system. They may get you to take another EC pill and give you some anti-nausea medication to help stop you being sick, or they may talk to you about using the emergency contraceptive IUD.

If you were sick more than 2 hours after taking the emergency contraceptive pill, you don't need to worry. The pill will have been absorbed by your body.

Are there any side effects?

There are no serious short or long-term side effects from using the emergency contraceptive pill so it's not at all damaging to your health. The hormones in the emergency contraceptive pill don't build up in your body at all.
Some women may experience some, or none, of these possible side effects:

  • feeling a bit sick, dizzy or tired after taking it;
  • may get headaches;
  • breast tenderness;
  • abdominal pain;
  • vomiting (a small number of women).

These side-effects aren't harmful and don't happen to all women.

Will the emergency contraceptive pill affect my periods?

It's quite common for the emergency contraceptive pill to disrupt your periods for a little while after taking it. Your period might come earlier than expected or it may be up to a week late (and sometimes later) but mostly, it comes within a few days of when you would expect it.

You might also experience some irregular bleeding between taking the EC Pill and your next period.
This disruption to your period can be a nuisance but isn't harmful.

How many times can I use it?

There is no limit to the number of times you can take the emergency contraceptive pill. So you can use the EC pill as many times as you need it. You can take it more than once in a menstrual cycle and it is not at all dangerous to do this, although it can affect your periods. However some chemists will not prescribe it twice in the same month because they have special licensing laws.

Although it's a good idea to use the emergency contraceptive pill if you've had unprotected sex, or if your contraception has failed, it is more effective to use another regular method of contraception instead, such as the contraceptive pill or implant.

This is because they are more effective than the emergency contraceptive pill at preventing pregnancy, they are more readily available, more reliable, have fewer side-effects and protect you against pregnancy all of the time.

Can I still use my regular contraceptive pill after taking the emergency contraceptive pill?

Yes. If you needed emergency contraception because you missed some of your regular pills, or you've had severe diarrhoea or sickness, it's important that you continue taking the contraceptive pill as normal. You will need to use an additional contraceptive method, such as condoms, for:

  • seven days with the combined pill
  • two days with the progestogen-only pill.

Can I get the emergency pill in advance ?

If you're worried you're going to be in a situation where you won't easily be able to get emergency contraception - say you're going away. You can ask a doctor or nurse about getting the emergency pill in advance.

If I took the emergency contraceptive pill yesterday but had unprotected sex today, am I still covered?

The emergency contraceptive pill does not protect you from further unprotected sex. So you may need to take another course of emergency contraception. You should seek advice from your GP, or family planning clinic, from Brook (if you are under 25), or from the service that prescribed you the emergency contraceptive pill.

Emergency IUD FAQ

How does the emergency IUD work?
Does the emergency IUD always work?
Is the emergency IUD suitable for all women?
How is the IUD fitted?
Are there any side effects?
Will the emergency IUD affect my periods?
Does the emergency IUD protect me til my next period?
How is the emergency IUD removed?
What do I do if I had unprotected sex more than 5 days ago?

How does the emergency IUD work?

The IUD works by stopping an egg being fertilised by sperm, or through stopping a fertilised egg being able to implant in the womb.

Does the emergency IUD always work?

The IUD is almost 100% effective when used within five days after having unprotected sex.
If you have had the IUD fitted you should see a doctor or nurse 3-4 weeks later to check the IUD is in place or to have it removed if you do not want to continue using at as your method of contraception.

Is the emergency IUD suitable for all women?

Most young women can use an IUD for emergency contraception. It may not be suitable for some women who have had certain problems with their cervix or womb. A doctor or nurse will ask you some questions to check that the IUD is suitable for you.

An IUD may be the most suitable method of emergency contraception for you if:

  • you cannot take progestogen
  • you want to use the IUD as an ongoing method of contraception

How is the IUD fitted?

A small "T" shaped piece of plastic and copper is inserted into the vagina, through the cervix (the hole at the top of your vagina) and into the womb. Fitting an IUD takes about 15-20 minutes. A doctor or nurse will put some local anaesthetic on your cervix, to stop you feeling any pain. It can be uncomfortable or painful for some women and you may get period type pains and some light bleeding for a few days afterwards.

Are there any side effects?

There is a very small chance of getting an infection in your womb within the first 20 days after the IUD is put in. If you have been at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection you may have some screening tests done at the time the IUD is fitted and you may also be given some antibiotics. This will help to reduce the chance of getting a pelvic infection.
Sometimes the IUD can be pushed out by your womb. If this happens you should speak to a nurse or doctor.

Will the emergency IUD affect my periods?

After having the emergency IUD fitted your next period should come at about the same time as you would normally expect it. If you don't have a normal period within three weeks of having the IUD it might be a good idea to have a chat with a nurse or doctor. They may suggest that you do a pregnancy test.

Does the emergency IUD protect me till my next period?

Yes. As soon as the IUD is fitted it will protect you against pregnancy and it will provide ongoing contraception until it is taken out. If you want to, you can carry on using this method as your regular contraception. You can discuss this with your doctor or nurse.

How is the emergency IUD removed?

If you don't want the IUD to be your regular method of contraception, you can get it removed during your next period. A doctor or nurse gently pulls on the threads attached to the IUD to remove it.

It is fine to have the IUD removed when you're not on your period but you will need to use another method of contraception such as condoms, for seven days before the IUD is taken out. This is because sperm can live inside your body for up to seven days and so there could be a risk of pregnancy once the IUD is removed.

What do I do if had unprotected sex more than 5 days ago?

If you have had unprotected sex more than five days ago, it's a good idea to take a pregnancy test either:

  • as soon as you realise your period is late
  • if your period is shorter or lighter than usual
  • or 3 weeks after having unprotected sex as this is roughly how long it will take for any pregnancy hormones to show up on a test.

You can get a free pregnancy test a Brook service (under 25), young person's service, family planning clinic and some GPS. All theses services are free and confidential which means that no-one will be told about your visit unless you say it's OK.

Planned contraception FAQS

What methods of contraception can I get?
Where can I get contraception?
Will I have to pay for contraception?
Which condoms are best?
What if a condom breaks?
I've missed a pill and had sex, what should I do?
Do antibiotics stop the pill from working?
I've had sickness and diarrhoea will it stop the pill from working?
I'm not sure how to take my pill. What should I do?
Do you have to wear the contraceptive patch all the time?
I've just started using the contraceptive patch and I've had sickness and diarrhoea. Will it stop working?
What happens if the patch falls off while I'm wearing it?

What methods of contraception can I get?

You'll find there are 15 methods available. But different methods suit different people. The methods are:

  • Male condom
  • Female condom
  • Combined pill
  • Progestogen only pill
  • Contraceptive injection
  • Contraceptive patch
  • Contraceptive Implant
  • Intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Intrauterine system (IUS)
  • Contraceptive vaginal ring - Novaring
  • Diaphragm with spermicide
  • Cap with spermicide
  • Female sterilisation
  • Male sterilisation (vasectomy)
  • Natural family planning

Where can I get contraception?

You can get contraception from:

  • Brook (if you are under 25)
  • Another young people's service
  • A family planning clinic
  • Your local GP
  • Another GP - where you can register for family planning services only.

You can buy condoms at :

  • Chemists
  • Supermarkets
  • Vending machines

Will I have to pay for contraception?

Contraception is available free from GPs, family planning clinics and Brook services (if you are under 25). Not all GPs give out free condoms. But they are available free from Brook services and from family planning clinics.

Which condoms are best?

The important thing is to first, check if it has a quality mark - a BSI Kitemark and CE Kitemark. Then check the expiry date. Not all novelty condoms provide protection so always check.

What if my condom breaks?

You might need to take emergency contraception to reduce the risk of pregnancy. Make sure you seek advice as soon as possible from your GP, a family planning clinic or Brook service (if you are under 25) as soon as possible.

You also need to be aware that you may have been at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. Go straight to your local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic to get tested.

Follow this link to find your nearest GUM clinic http://www.fpa.org.uk/Findaclinic

I've missed a pill and had sex, what should I do? Do I need to take emergency contraception?

There are different rules about taking pills late or missing them, depending on which type of contraceptive pill you have used to protect yourself against pregnancy.

The combined pill - there is a risk of pregnancy if you take a pill more than 24 hours later than your chosen time: missed combined pill

If you miss up to two pills (or only one if you are taking the pills Loestrin 20, Mercilon, Sunya or Femodette):

  • Take the last 1 pill you missed, as soon as you realise you missed it;
  • Take the rest of the pack as usual (this may mean taking 2 pills in one day);
  • There is no need to use condoms as extra protection against pregnancy;
  • If less than 7 pills are left in the pack, after the missed pill - finish the pack, then start a new pack straight away, missing out the 7-day break or placebo pills.

If you miss 3 or more pills: you should take the last pill you missed, as soon as you realize you missed it. But leave any earlier missed pills. Then take the rest of the pack as usual, and use condoms for the next 7 days.

  • Take the last 1 pill you missed, as soon as you realise you missed it.
  • Take your next pill at the usual time (this may mean taking 2 pills in one day);
  • You are not protected against pregnancy. Continue to take your pills as usual, but use condoms for the next 7 days;
  • if less than 7 pills are left in the pack, after the missed pill - finish the pack, then start a new pack straight away, missing out the 7-day break or placebo pills.

If you are taking the combined pill Qlaira and have missed a pill the information listed in this section may not apply to you. You should seek advice from your GP or family planning clinic.

Progestogen only (POP) pill - there is a risk of pregnancy if you take a pill more than 3 hours later than your chosen time (or 12 hours if taking Cerazette): missed POP pill

  • Take the last 1 pill you missed, as soon as you realise you missed it;
  • Take your next pill at the usual time (this may mean taking 2 pills in one day);
  • You are not protected against pregnancy. Continue to take your pills as usual, but use condoms for the next 2 days.

Ask Brook is not run by medically qualified staff. Therefore we cannot provide individual medical advice, but we can tell you exactly where to go to get the help you need.

If you have missed a pill and had sex within the last few days, you may also need to use emergency contraception. If you need urgent medical advice contact NHS 111 by dialing 111. They will let you know whether or not you are at risk of pregnancy, and what do to next.

You should seek medical advice from either your GP or family planning clinic, from Brook service (if you are under 25) or from the service that prescribed your pill, as soon as possible, to find out what to do next. It is important to seek advice immediately, as you may need emergency contraception. Keep taking your pills and use condoms in meantime until you have checked it out.

If you cannot get to a service but need urgent advice, contact NHS 111 by dialing 111.

Do antibiotics stop the pill working?

Some prescribed medicines and some complementary medicines may affect the pill. You should always seek medical advice if in doubt, from your GP or family planning clinic, from Brook (if you are under 25) or from the service that prescribed your pill. If you have had sex in the last few days, you may need emergency contraception and should seek medical advice immediately. Keep taking your pills and use condoms in meantime until you have checked it out.

If you cannot get to a service but need urgent advice, contact NHS 111 by dialing 111.

I've had sickness and diarrhoea and I'm on the pill. Will it stop it working?

If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the pill or if you have very severe diarrhoea, the way your pill works may be affected, so you should seek medical advice from your GP or family planning clinic, from Brook (if you are under 25) or from the service that prescribed your pill. If you have had sex in the last few days, you may need emergency contraception and should seek medical advice immediately. Keep taking your pills in meantime and use condoms until you have checked it out.

If you cannot get to a service but need urgent advice, contact NHS 111 by dialing 111.

I'm not sure how to take my pill. What should I do?

Instructions on how to take your pill vary according to the type of pill that you take. You should look at the instruction leaflet given with pill or seek advice from the service that gave you the pill.

If you cannot get to a service but need urgent advice, contact NHS 111 by dialing 111.

Do you have to wear the contraceptive patch all the time?

The contraceptive patch is worn for 3 weeks out of every 4. It works in a similar way to the combined pill, which is taken for 3 weeks followed by a pill-free week.

The first patch is applied on the first day of your period and lasts for 7 days. A new patch is then applied for the second week and again for the third week. The patch must be changed on the right day but can be changed at any time on that day. After 3 weeks, you have a patch-free week, in which you will normally get your withdrawal bleed (period).

I've just started using the contraceptive patch and I've had sickness and diarrhoea. Will it stop it working?

The contraceptive patch releases a constant daily dose of hormones through the skin into the bloodstream. Unlike the pill, which is absorbed through the stomach, the patch is not affected by vomiting or diarrhoea.
Do any medicines interfere with the way the contraceptive patch works?

Some prescribed medicines and some complementary medicines may affect the patch. You should always seek medical advice if in doubt, from your GP or family planning clinic, from Brook (if you are under 25) or from the service that prescribed your patch. If you have had sex in the last few days, you may need emergency contraception and should seek medical advice immediately. Keep using your patch and use condoms in meantime until you have checked it out.

What happens if the patch comes off while I'm wearing it?

If used according to the instructions, the patch is designed to stay on during normal activities like bathing, exercising and swimming. If it does come off and is still sticky, it must be reapplied as soon as possible. If it is no longer sticky, a new patch must be applied.

If the patch is reapplied within 24 hours, you will still be protected. If you leave it off for more than 24 hours, condoms should be used for the next 7 days. If you have had sex in the last few days, you may need emergency contraception and should seek medical advice as soon as possible from your GP or family planning clinic, from Brook (if you are under 25) or from the service that prescribed your patch.

 

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