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FAQs

 

FAQs

Can contraception protect me from sexually transmitted infections?

The only contraception that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are condoms.1

You should use a condom until you and your partner have been tested for STIs and are sure that neither of you has an STI.1

Is contraception free and where can I get it?

Yes, you can get contraception for free from:2–4

  • Most GP surgeries
  • Contraception clinics or sexual health clinics
  • Some GUM clinics
  • Some young people’s services, like Brook

Emergency contraception is available for free from:2

  • Most GP surgeries
  • Contraception clinics or sexual health clinics
  • Some GUM clinics
  • Some young people’s services, like Brook
  • Most NHS walk-in centres (England only)
  • Some pharmacies
  • Most NHS minor injuries units
  • Some hospital accident and emergency departments

You can also buy emergency contraception from most pharmacies (in stores and online).2 It will cost around £25–£35. There may be some age restrictions for certain types.5


Pharmacies may also sell condoms, internal condoms, diaphragms, caps and spermicide.2

What should I do if I miss a combined pill, or I throw up or have diarrhoea?

If you miss one pill or start a new pack a day late, you’re still protected against getting pregnant and don’t need to use extra contraception. Just take the pill you missed as soon as you remember, even if that means you take two pills in one day.6


A few types might be different, so double check the leaflet that comes with your pills if you’re not sure.


If you throw up within 2 hours of taking your pill, your body probably won’t have had time to absorb it. You should take another pill straight away after being sick and then take your next pill at the usual time. If you follow these steps, you should still be protected from getting pregnant.7


If you’re throwing up or have diarrhoea for more than 24 hours, try to take the pill as normal but also use extra contraception such as condoms if you have sex. Count each day you have sickness and diarrhoea as a day you have missed your pill and take extra precautions.7

What should I do if I miss a progestogen-only pill, or I throw up or have diarrhoea?

The advice for missing a pill depends on whether your pill has desogestrel or not. Check the leaflet that comes with your pill if you’re not sure.8


If it’s been less than three hours for a non-desogestrel pill, or less than 12 for a desogestrel pill, you’re still protected against pregnancy. Just take the missed pill as soon as you remember. If it’s been longer than this, you won’t be protected. Take your pill as soon as you remember, even if that means two in one day. You’ll need to use condoms for the next 2 days afterwards.8


If you throw up within 2 hours of taking your pill, your body probably won’t have had time to absorb it. You should take another pill straight away after being sick and then take your next pill at the usual time. If you follow these steps, you should still be protected from getting pregnant.7


If you’re throwing up or have diarrhoea for more than 24 hours, try to take the pill as normal but also use extra contraception such as condoms if you have sex. Count each day you have sickness and diarrhoea as a day you have missed your pill and take extra precautions.7

Can I stop my ‘withdrawal bleed’ for example if I’m going on holiday?

If you take combined hormonal contraception (combined pill, vaginal rings or patches), you will usually have a ‘withdrawal bleed’ during your seven-day break.9


If want to prevent your withdrawal bleed it’s fine to take cycles back-to-back, without having your seven-day break i.e. two strips of combined oral contraceptive pills, two vaginal rings or six contraceptive patches, without having a break. This should stop withdrawal bleeding.9


However, a benefit to withdrawal bleeding is that it can help you keep track of your health and reassure you that you’re not pregnant.9

When will my periods come back after stopping the pill?

After you stop taking the pill, your period should come back in about 2–4 weeks. However, this depends on you as well as your natural cycle. Factors such as weight, health and stress can affect your cycle.10


Your first period after stopping the pill is known as the ‘withdrawal bleed’. The second period is your first natural period. After coming off the pill, your periods may be irregular. It may take up to 3 months for your natural cycle to return to what is normal for you.10


You can get pregnant as soon you as come off the pill, so if you want to stay protected don’t forget to use another form of contraception (such as condoms) straight after you stop taking the pill.10


If you are trying to get pregnant, it may be best to wait until after you’ve had a natural period. This gives you time to make sure your health is at its best, for example by giving up smoking or alcohol.10

Are all contraceptive pills the same?

No. There are two types – the combined pill (‘the Pill’), which contains both oestrogen and progestogen, and the progestogen-only pill (‘POP’).11


There is a wide range in each group, and different pills will suit different women. If you feel like yours isn’t working for you, talk to your doctor or nurse.11

I'm not using any contraception – can I get pregnant during my period?

Yes, you can get pregnant during your period. Pregnancy is always a possibility whenever sperm enters your vagina.12


Some women ovulate early – towards the end of their period – and sperm can survive for up to seven days inside your body.12

Can I get pregnant the first time I have sex?

Yes you can. Any time ovulation happens you can get pregnant, so it’s important to use contraception even if it’s your first time.12

I have just had a baby and am breastfeeding. Can I still get pregnant?

Yes, you can still get pregnant after having a baby and breastfeeding.13


Women who are breastfeeding are only protected against pregnancy during the first six months if:13

  • They are breastfeeding their baby exclusively
  • Their periods have not come back

Please see your doctor for advice if you are worried about an unplanned pregnancy.

How often can I use emergency contraception?

You should use your usual contraception as correctly as possible and only use emergency contraception as an emergency back-up.14


The intrauterine device (IUD) can also be a form of emergency contraception after sex if you have it put in up to five days after the earliest predicted ovulation.5

Should I stop using contraception at a certain age?

You can use contraception that’s right for you for as long as you want. However, after menopause you may no longer need it. Your menopause is when you stop ovulating and stop having periods – this means you can no longer get pregnant.15


Speak to your doctor if:

  • You’re worried that a certain type of contraception is not suitable for you
  • You’re over 50 (as your doctor may want to switch you to another type)