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Understanding contraception

What is contraception?

Pregnancy is a result of a man’s sperm reaching a woman’s egg and fertilizing it. This can be prevented by contraception.1

Contraception works by1,2:

  • Keeping the sperm away from the egg;
  • Blocking egg production; and/or
  • Making it hard for an egg to be implanted on the wall of the womb lining.

There are different methods of contraception to suit the different needs and lifestyles of women. In order to choose a contraceptive method that works best for you, your doctor or pharmacist might also ask you several questions, including1:
  • Your age and weight
  • Whether you smoke
  • Your medical history
  • Medications you are taking (if any)
The articles on the different contraceptive methods below will tell you more about these.

Some contraceptive methods, such as the combined oral contraceptive pill, progestogen-only pill and patch, require you to be organized and to remember to take/apply them in a timely manner. The frequency of which you need to use the contraceptive method and its effectiveness might also affect your choice.1

Method Frequency1 Effectiveness1
Diaphragm with spermicide Contraceptive cap with spermicide Inserted just before sex 92-96%*
Male and femal condoms Used/inserted just before sex 98% (male condom)*
,95% (female comdom)*
Combined oral contraceptive pill Progestogen-only pill Taken daily >99%*
Natural family planning Daily monitoring throughout the menstrual cycle >99%*
Contraceptive patch Replaced weekly >99%*
Vaginal ring Replaced monthly >99%*
Contraceptive injection Renewed 3-monthly >99%
Contraceptive implant Renewed every 3 years >99%
Intraterine device (IUD) Renewed every 5 years/inserted withing 5 days after sex2 >99%
Intraterine system (IUS) Renewed every 5 years >99%
Male and female sterilisation Permanent >99%

* If used correctly/according to instructions

Note: All the contraceptive methods mentioned above (except condoms) prevent pregnancy but do not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only contraceptive method that can also protect against STIs.1

You may want to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist to find out which contraceptive method best suits your needs and lifestyle.


  1. NHS choices. Contraception guide: Which method of contraception suits me? Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/contraception-guide/Pages/which-method-suits-me.aspx. Accessed 23 September, 2015.
  2. Family Planning Association. Your guide to the IUD; 2014.