This section explains the choices you have to help you find the contraception service that’s most suitable for you.
Is contraception free and where can I go to get it?
You can obtain free contraception, including emergency contraception, from:
- a general practice, unless they say they don’t provide contraception services
- a contraception (family planning) clinic
- a sexual health clinic
- a young people’s service (these will have an upper age limit)
- some GUM clinics.
You can also get free emergency contraception from:
- most NHS walk-in centres (England only) and minor injuries units
- some hospital accident and emergency departments (phone first to check)
- some pharmacies (there may be an age limit).
Contraception is free even if your service gives you a prescription to take to the pharmacy.
Some pharmacists are able to provide a range of sexual health services including contraception. If you are 16 or over you can buy the emergency pill from most pharmacies for around £24. They also sell condoms, diaphragms, caps and spermicide.
What other services are available?
Contraception services sometimes provide far more than contraception. This may include:
- pre-pregnancy advice/pregnancy testing
- help and advice on an unplanned pregnancy (including all pregnancy choices)
- safer sex advice
- advice on sexual problems
- cervical screening tests and breast awareness
- checks for sexually transmitted infections
- infertility advice.
What if I need emergency contraception?
If you have had unprotected sex, that is, sex without using contraception, or you think your contraception might have failed, you can use emergency contraception. There are two methods:
- Emergency hormonal pill. This must be taken up to three days (72 hours) after sex. It is more effective the earlier it is taken after sex.
- An IUD. This is a small plastic and copper device that is put into your womb by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex at any time in the menstrual cycle, provided this is the only unprotected sex that has occurred since your last period. If you have had unprotected sex more than once since your last period then an IUD can be fitted up to five days after the earliest time you could have released an egg (ovulation).
If you act quickly, emergency contraception will usually prevent pregnancy.