Contraception can stop someone from getting pregnant and, in some cases, can protect you from STIs.

You may have to try a few methods before finding the one that is right for you but that is ok. Everyone’s different, so what works well for your friends may not be right for you and vice versa. Whichever contraceptive option you chose, it’s important to remember that they are only effective if used properly, as instructed by your nurse or doctor.

The most effective methods of contraception are the LARC methods. LARC stands for Long Acting Reversible Contraception and includes the implant, the injection, the IUD and the IUS.

But there’s more to contraception than just preventing pregnancy. Some types have other benefits, such as helping with skin problems or managing heavy periods. Just because someone is using contraception doesn’t mean they’re having sex.

Remember, only condoms and femidoms help protect you against STIs as well as pregnancy. This means we always recommend using a condom or femidom even if you are using another method of contraception.

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception is the only contraception you take after having sex to prevent pregnancy, if you are not using another method of contraception.

There are two types of pill that act as emergency contraception:

  • EllaOne – can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex and is as effective on day 5 as it is on day 1. You can get this pill from most pharmacies in Highland, as well as through your GP or a sexual health clinic.
  • Levonelle – can be taken up to 3 days after having unprotected sex, but is more effective the sooner it is taken. This can also be given by a pharmacist, your GP or at a sexual health clinic.

The IUD (otherwise known as the copper coil) is another form of emergency contraception which can be fitted by a GP or a sexual health clinic up to 5 days after you’ve had unprotected sex. Find out more about the copper coil below.

All types of emergency contraception are free for under-25s in Highland. When you go to get emergency contraception, the healthcare professional you speak to will ask a few questions to make sure that you are not at risk of harm and that it is safe for you to take the medication, but the service is confidential.

For more information about emergency contraception, visit the NHS Choices website here.

Condoms

Condoms (or johnnies) are probably the best known contraceptive method and they can also protect you against a range of STIs.

They are worn on an erect penis and act as a barrier that prevents sperm and STIs from passing from person to person.

  • Can be used for vaginal, anal and oral sex
  • Come in many shapes, sizes and flavours – you may need to try different types to find the one that’s right for you
  • Most condoms are made of latex, but latex-free options are available if you are allergic.

Condoms are an effective contraception method if they are used properly. You can reduce the risk of condom failure (bursts or splits) by following some simple tips:

  • Before using, check that condoms are in date, and that the package hasn’t been ripped or damaged – never us an out of date condom or one with signs of damage
  • Only use condoms that have the kite mark on the packaging – this shows that the product is of a high quality and safe to use
  • Never open the pack using your teeth or with scissors as this can damage the condom and beware of sharp nails and jewellery
  • Only put a condom on once the penis is erect
  • Use a water-based lube with a condom – no baby oil or Vaseline!
  • After use, dispose of condoms in a bin (not a toilet) and never reuse

Watch this video to see how to use a condom correctly:

Condoms and lube are available for free for under-25s from GPs, sexual health clinics and most pharmacies in Highland.

If you are under 16 and want free condoms, you may be asked a few questions to make sure that you are not at risk of harm, and that you understand how to use condoms correctly, but the service is confidential.

Femidoms

Femidoms, (the female condom or ‘femi’), are less well known than their male equivalent, but are available for under 25s and can protect you from a range of STIs.

They are inserted in the vagina and act as a barrier that prevents sperm and STIs passing from person to person.

  • Can be used for vaginal or anal sex
  • Come in many shapes, sizes and flavours – you may need to try different types to find the one that’s right for you
  • Most femidoms are made of latex, but latex-free options are available if you are allergic

Femidoms are an effective contraception method if they are used properly. Here are our top tips:

  • Before using, check that femidoms are in date, and that the package hasn’t been ripped or damaged – never us an out of date femidom or one with signs of damage
  • Only use femidoms that have the kite mark on the packaging – this shows that the product is of a high quality and safe to use
  • Never open the pack using your teeth or with scissors as this can damage the femidom and beware of sharp nails and jewellery
  • Use a water-based lube with latex femidoms– no baby oil or Vaseline!
  • After use, dispose of femidoms in a bin (not a toilet) and never reuse

Femidoms are available for free for under-25s from GPs, sexual health clinics and most pharmacies in Highland. If you are under 16 and want free femidoms, you may be asked a few questions to make sure that you are not at risk of harm, and that you understand how to use them correctly, but the service is confidential.

For more information about femidoms, visit the NHS Choices website here.

Dental dams

Dental dams (or dams) are flat sheets of latex that are placed over the vagina or anus to act as a barrier to prevent STIs passing from person to person.

Most dams are made of latex, but latex-free options are available if you are allergic

Dental dams are an effective protection against STIs if they are used properly: Here are our top tips:

  • Before using, check that dams are in date, and that the package hasn’t been ripped or damaged – never us an out of date dam or one with signs of damage
  • Only use dams that have the kite mark on the packaging – this shows that the product is of a high quality and safe to use
  • Never open the pack using your teeth or with scissors as this can damage the dental dam and beware of sharp nails and jewellery
  • Use a water-based lube with a dam – no baby oil or Vaseline!
  • After use, dispose of dams in a bin (not a toilet) and never reuse

Dams are available for free for most under-25s from GPs, sexual health clinics and most pharmacies in Highland. If you are under 16 and want free dams, you may be asked a few questions to make sure that you are not at risk of harm, and that you understand how to use them correctly, but the service is confidential.

The Pill

The pill is the name given to a number of different contraceptive medications that can be prescribed for regular use.

  • They are usually taken once a day for three weeks, followed by a week’s break which is usually when you might have your period.
  • There are several different types of pill –talking to your GP is usually the best way to find out which option is right for you
  • Releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy
  • Only effective if taken properly – so may not be a good option if you are forgetful
  • May not be the best option if you’re on other prescribed medications which can prevent the pill from working – your GP will be able to talk to you about this
  • Certain pills can help with acne and other skin problems – speak to your GP if this is something you would like to know more about
  • Does not prevent STIs

The pill can be given by a medical professional so contact your GP or Highland Sexual Health to book an appointment.

For more information about the pill, visit the NHS Choices website here.

The Implant

The implant (or the rod) is a highly effective contraceptive method which is fitted under the skin of your upper arm.

  • Fitted under the skin so cannot be seen – your arm is numbed for insertion and removal so it is painless
  • Slowly releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy
  • A Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) – can last for up to 3 years, but can be removed at any time if you wish to become pregnant
  • Does not protect against STIs

An implant has to be fitted and removed by a medical professional so contact your GP or Highland Sexual Health to book an appointment.

For more information about the implant, visit the NHS Choices website here.

The IUD

The IUD (or copper coil) is a highly effective contraceptive method that can be inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

  • The only method with no hormones other than condoms, femidoms and dental dams.
  • Can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex to be used as emergency contraception
  • Can be slightly uncomfortable to have fitted but once in place should not be felt by you or your partner
  • Known as the copper coil as copper reacts with sperm to prevent pregnancy
  • A Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) – can last up to 10 years, but can be removed before if you want to become pregnant
  • Does not protect against STIs

A copper coil has to be fitted and removed by a medical professional so contact your GP or Highland Sexual Health to book an appointment.

For more information about the IUD, visit the NHS Choices website.

The IUS

The IUS (or coil) is a highly effective contraceptive method which can be inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

  • Can be slightly uncomfortable to have fitted but once in place should not be felt by you or your partner
  • A hormonal version of the IUD, the IUS releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy
  • A Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) – can last for 5-7 years, but can be removed at any time if you wish to become pregnant
  • Does not protect against STIs

A coil has to be fitted and removed by a medical professional so contact your GP or Highland Sexual Health to book an appointment.

For more information about the IUS, visit the NHS Choices website here.

The Patch

The patch is a small, plaster-like patch that is stuck on the body. It releases hormones that prevent pregnancy.

  • Can be stuck anywhere on the body apart from the breasts, as the fatty tissue does not absorb the hormones well
  • A new patch is applied every week for three weeks, followed by a week’s break – during this break is when to expect your period
  • They’re very sticky so they won’t come off even if exercising or in the shower
  • They’re discreet – they look just like a plaster and can be hidden under clothes
  • Does not prevent STIs

You can get patches through your GP or Highland Sexual Health.

For more information about the patch, visit the NHS Choices website here.