Contraception aims to prevent pregnancy.

A woman can get pregnant if a man's sperm reaches one of her eggs (ova).

Contraception tries to stop this happening by keeping the egg and sperm apart, or by stopping egg production, or by stopping the combined sperm and egg (fertilized egg) attaching to the lining of the womb.

Barrier methods such as condoms are a form of contraception that helps to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. You should use condoms to protect both your sexual health and that of your partner, no matter what the other contraception you're using to prevent pregnancy.



Some of the different methods of contraception include:

The combined oral contraceptive pill is usually just called "the pill". It contains artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries. The hormones in the pill prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulating). They also make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg, or for an egg to implant itself in the lining of the womb. The pill is usually taken to prevent pregnancy, but can also be used to treat painful periods, heavy periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and endometriosis.

Female condoms are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb.

When used correctly during vaginal sex, they help to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only contraception that protect against pregnancy and STIs.

Male condoms are made from very thin latex (rubber), polyisoprene or polyurethane, and are designed to stop a man's semen from coming into contact with his sexual partner.

When condoms are used correctly during vaginal sex, they help to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible tube about 40mm long that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It's inserted by a trained professional, such as a doctor, and lasts for three years.

The implant stops the release of an egg from the ovary by slowly releasing progestogen into your body. Progestogen also thickens the cervical mucus and thins the womb lining. This makes it harder for sperm to move through your cervix, and less likely for your womb to accept a fertilized egg.

The injection contains progestogen. This thickens the mucus in the cervix, stopping sperm reaching an egg. It also thins the womb lining and, in some, prevents the release of an egg.

The contraceptive patch is a sticky patch, a bit like a nicotine patch, measuring 5x5cm. It delivers hormones into your body through your skin. In the UK, the patch's brand name is Evra.

It contains the same hormones as the combined pill, and it works in the same way. This means that it prevents ovulation (the release of an egg); it thickens cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to travel through the cervix; and it thins the womb lining, making it less likely that a fertilized egg will implant there.

A contraceptive diaphragm is inserted into the vagina before sex, and it covers the cervix so that sperm can't get into the womb (uterus). You need to use spermicide with it (spermicides kill sperm).

The diaphragm must be left in place for at least six hours after sex. After that time, you take out the diaphragm and wash it (they're reusable). Diaphragms come in different sizes – you must be fitted for the correct size by a trained doctor or nurse.

An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse. The IUD works by stopping the sperm and egg from surviving in the womb or fallopian tubes. It may also prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb.

The IUD is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method. This means that once it's in place, you don't have to think about it each day or each time you have sex.

An IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse. The IUS releases a progestogen hormone into the womb. This thickens the mucus from your cervix, making it difficult for sperm to move through and reach an egg. It also thins the womb lining so that it's less likely to accept a fertilized egg. It may also stop ovulation (the release of an egg) in some women.

The IUS is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method. It works for five years or three years, depending on the type, so you don't have to think about contraception every day or each time you have sex.

It contains the hormone progestogen but doesn't contain estrogen.

You need to take the progestogen-only pill at or around the same time every day.

The progestogen-only pill thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. In can also stop ovulation, depending on the type of progestogen-only pill you take. Newer progestogen-only pills contain desogestrel.

Natural family planning is a method that teaches you at what time during the month you can have sex without contraception and with a reduced risk of pregnancy. The method is sometimes called fertility awareness.

It works by plotting the times of the month when you’re fertile and when you’re not. You learn how to record fertility signals, such as your body temperature and cervical secretions (fluids or mucus), to identify when it’s safer to have sex. Natural family planning is more effective when more than one fertility signal is monitored.

The vaginal ring is a small, soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It’s about 4mm thick and 5.5cm in diameter. You leave it in your vagina for 21 days, then remove it and throw it in the bin (not down the toilet) in a special disposal bag. Seven days after removing the ring, you insert a new one for the next 21 days.

The ring releases oestrogen and progestogen. This prevents ovulation (release of an egg), makes it difficult for sperm to get to an egg and thins the womb lining, so it’s less likely that an egg will implant there.



There are two permanent methods of contraception:

Female sterilization occurs with a surgery/minor operation that involves blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes, which link the ovaries to the womb (uterus). This prevents the woman’s eggs from reaching sperm and becoming fertilized. Eggs will still be released from the ovaries as normal, but they will be absorbed naturally into the woman's body.  Female sterilization works by preventing eggs from traveling down the fallopian tubes. This means a woman's eggs cannot meet the sperm, and fertilization cannot happen.

Vasectomy is a quick and relatively painless surgical procedure. The tubes that carry sperm from a man's testicles to the penis are cut or blocked with heat. This prevents sperm from reaching the seminal fluid (semen), which is ejaculated from the penis during sex. Therefore there will be no more sperm in the semen, so a woman's egg can't be fertilized.



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