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Contraception: FAQs and Myth-busters

There’s lots of incorrect information about contraception out there and this can make it hard to find the right method for you. We’ve taken a look at some common myths and questions about contraception and given you the real facts so you can make an informed decision. 

Starting or changing your contraception method

What are the different types of contraception?

There are lots of different options for contraception, but they all fall into one of four categories:

  1. Barrier methods (condoms, internal condoms, diaphragms and caps): These prevent pregnancy by creating a barrier between the sperm and the egg, stopping them from meeting.
  2. Short acting (the combined pill, the progestogen-only pill, the patch, the vaginal ring): These release hormones that prevent pregnancy.
  3. Long acting reversible contraception (LARC) (the IUD, the IUS, the implant and the injection):  These are the most effective methods as they are long-term meaning you don’t have to remember to take them everyday or every week.
  4. Permanent (tubal occlusion and vasectomy): This is where the reproductive system is altered to prevent an egg and sperm from meeting.

Browse the different contraception methods

What is the most effective method of contraception?

The LARC (long acting reversible contraception) methods are generally considered the most effective – that’s the IUS, IUD, implant and injection. This is because, once they are fitted/given, you don’t have to think about your contraception until they need replacing in a few months or even a few years.

Other methods require you remembering to use them correctly in order for them to be effective. That’s why it’s really important that you choose a method that fits with you and your lifestyle.

I want to start a method of contraception but I don’t know which one to go for?

It can be difficult to work out which contraception is best for you. Here are some tips:

  • Use an online contraception tool – these ask you a series of questions which will help narrow down the methods to the ones that are best suited to you and your preferences
  • Talk to a medical professional at a sexual health clinic or a GP surgery
  • Some key things to consider:
What is your lifestyle like?

You should choose a method that you know you can easily follow. This will maximise its effectiveness.

If you start a method that you will struggle to manage, this can put you at greater risk.

For example:

  • If you know you are bad at remembering things, perhaps the combined pill or progestogen-only pill aren’t the best for you.
  • If you would be devastated to get pregnant in the next year, the fertility awareness method wouldn’t be the best option.
Do you suffer from heavy, painful periods? Mood swings? Acne?

If you answered yes to any of the above, hormonal methods of contraception would be better suited to you. These are the only methods that can help you manage these as well as protecting you from pregnancy.

Hormonal contraception: the combined pill, progestogen-only pill, implant, injection, patch, ring, IUS

Is there anything you wouldn’t like?

Perhaps you don’t like injections? You don’t want your periods to stop? You don’t want to have a vaginal examination? This will help you narrow down your options to the ones that you would be happy with.

How accessible is the method for you?

Most methods require an appointment at a sexual health clinic or with a GP. For some this is a one-off, for example getting an IUD or an IUS fitted, but others require return trips, for example, with the contraceptive injection you usually have to return to the clinic every few weeks.

Condoms are the most widely available contraception method and are available online and in shops. The progestogen-only pill can also be bought from certain pharmacies without an appointment.

Do you have any medical conditions?

Your medical history, family history, age and if you smoke or take medication will affect which method is the best option for you. It’s best to talk to a medical professional to make sure the method is right for you.

I’m under 16, can I get contraception without my parents finding out?

Yes – contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm.

Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy

Read more about your rights when accessing healthcare services

I’m sexually active but I don’t really want to start on any contraception methods, is there an alternative?

If you’re having, or thinking about having, sex then you should also be thinking about contraception to prevent pregnancy.

If you don’t want to to start a method of hormonal contraception you there are other methods you can use including condoms. Condoms are the only contraception method that also protects against sexually transmitted infections.

What about just pulling out?

Pulling out (removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation) is not a reliable method of contraception. It is hard to get right every time and there is a risk of pregnancy from pre-cum which can contain sperm from previous ejaculations.

Can I get contraception even if I’m not at risk of pregnancy?

Even if you’re not having sex, or the type of sex you are having wouldn’t cause a pregnancy, you should still think about contraception for two reasons:

  • Everyone is at risk of STIs. You can get STIs from oral, anal or vaginal sex and the best way to prevent them is to use condoms.
  • Hormonal contraception can bring lots of additional benefits beyond preventing pregnancy. These include:
    • Improving skin and acne
    • Making periods lighter, shorter and less painful
    • Stopping periods altogether
    • Reducing PMS symptoms
    • Giving you more control over when you bleed

It is possible to get contraception for one or more of these reasons even if you’re not at risk of pregnancy

What contraception can I use after pregnancy?

You can get pregnant from week three after giving birth and two weeks after having a miscarriage or abortion depending on how far along the pregnancy was.

There are different guidelines for each method around when you can start following a pregnancy. Some can be started very soon after pregnancy, while for others you have to wait longer and you will have to use additional contraception such as condoms in the meantime. This can also depend on whether you are breastfeeding or not.

We’ve included some guidance on our webpages for each contraception method but it’s best to speak to your GP, midwife or sexual health clinic to make sure a method is good for you.

Do I have to wait until my period to start a new method?

No, it’s possible to start a new method of contraception at any time during your cycle as long as there is no risk of pregnancy. If there is a risk of pregnancy, you may have to wait to start on some methods. Your sexual health clinic or doctor can help decide which one is best for you.

Hormonal contraception myths

Hormonal contraception makes you gain weight

The only contraception method that has links with weight gain is the Depo-Provera contraceptive injection.

There is no evidence of weight gain with any other contraception method.

A side effect of some methods for some people may be an increased appetite. If this leads to eating more without increasing exercise or physical activity, this may cause weight gain.

Hormonal contraception affects long-term fertility

Hormonal contraception has no long-term impact on your fertility, and fertility will generally return to normal quickly when you stop using a hormonal method (usually within one to three months).

The only exception is the contraceptive injection – it can take up to 12 months for fertility to return when you stop using it so it’s generally not recommended if you are thinking about getting pregnant in the next year.

Hormonal contraception lowers your libido (sex drive)

Different contraceptive methods affect people differently. It is possible that contraception may increase or decrease your libido.

If this happens and you don’t like it, you can always stop and try another method. It’s all about finding the method that works for you.

For some, being on contraception in itself helps increase their libido as they have reduced anxiety around having sex knowing that they are protected from pregnancy.

You shouldn’t keep using the pill back-to-back to skip your periods

Some hormonal contraception methods (the combined pill, the ring and the patch) usually involve coming off the method for one week in every four.

During this week’s break, you will normally get a withdrawal bleed. A withdrawal bleed is generally lighter and shorter than a period and is caused by a drop in hormone levels.

There is no medical reason or health benefit to having a withdrawal bleed. In fact skipping this week can improve the effectiveness of the contraception method as you are less likely to forget to start on a new pill pack/patch/ring.

It is possible to use your contraception method back-to-back and skip the week’s bleed. This can be useful if you have a holiday coming up and you don’t want to be on your period or if you’d rather not have the withdrawal bleed you can use your contraception continuously.

If you would like to use the method continuously, it’s a good idea to talk to a medical professional such as your GP or a nurse at a sexual health clinic who will be able to offer you advice.

Using contraception

I’ve started on a new contraception method and it’s not working for me. What should I do?

It’s worth sticking with the new method for at least three months as it can take this long for temporary side effects such as headaches, bleeding, and nausea to disappear.

If you’ve trialled the method for at least three months and you’re still experiencing side effects and problems, it might simply be that that contraception isn’t for you. Different contraception methods affect people differently- What works for someone else may not work for you.

In which case you should talk to your contraception provider, (GP or sexual health clinic) to discuss what other options may work better for you. For some people this might be as simple as changing from one brand of pill/injection to another.  

I’m on contraception but I’m still worried about pregnancy, is there anything else I can do?

No method of contraception is 100% effective but there are some ways you can give yourself that extra piece of mind if you’re someone prone to worrying about pregnancy:

  • Consider LARC methods (IUD, IUS, implant and injection)- These are the most effective at preventing pregnancy as they are long-acting and don’t rely on you having to take a pill/change a patch/ring or wear a condom.
  • Double-up – Using condoms as well as your current method would not only protect you against sexually transmitted infections but also provide additional protection against pregnancy.
  • Take a pregnancy test every three months if you’re using a method where you don’t bleed.
Will antibiotics stop my contraception from working?

Most antibiotics will not affect your contraception. The only ones that are known to reduce effectiveness are rifampicin and rifabutin, which are used to treat or prevent diseases such as meningitis and tuberculosis.

Talk to a pharmacist or doctor if you’re unsure or read the instructions that come with the antibiotics.

Do I need to use contraception if we’re using the pull-out method?


The pull-out “method” is not reliable. It can be hard to time right every time and especially if you are high or drunk as your reaction times will be slower. Pre-cum (liquid released by the penis before ejaculation (cumming)) can contain sperm from previous ejaculations which can also lead to pregnancy. If you don’t want to get pregnant it’s best to use a more reliable and effective method of contraception.

More about contraception methods

What’s wrong with using emergency contraception as more regular contraception?

Emergency contraception should only be used, as the name suggests, for emergencies – as in, if the normal method of contraception has failed, for example the condom broke. 

It should never be used as a more regular form of contraception because emergency contraceptive pills will not prevent pregnancy if ovulation has already occurred. They can also have a greater impact on mood and periods due to their necessary higher dosage compared to regular forms of contraception.  

So It’s best to use a regular form of contraception whilst knowing emergency contraception is there to fall back on if something does go wrong. 

You could also consider using the IUD as emergency contraception which will protect you as soon as it is inserted and you won’t have to worry about pregnancy with the IUD in place which can be for up to 10 years.

More about regular forms of contraception

I forgot to change my ring/patch or take my pill, what do I do?

Don’t panic! If it’s only one day you are likely to still be protected from pregnancy. It might be that you need to use emergency contraception or additional contraception such as condoms for the next few days to make sure you’re protected from pregnancy.

To find out if you’re protected you can:

If you’re unsure, make sure you speak to a medical professional.

Unsure which contraception method is best for you?
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