Your guide to contraception

There are many different contraceptive methods available.

This guide shows the available contraceptive methods, explains how they work, how effective they are and the main advantages and disadvantages. The effectiveness figures quoted are based on independent research.

Figures are given for perfect use and typical use.

  • Perfect use means using the method correctly and consistently every time.
  • Typical use is when you don’t always use the method correctly and consistently.

Contraception needs to be used until the menopause. This is two years after last having a period if you’re aged under 50, or one year if aged over 50.This advice may be different if you’re using hormonal contraception.

Download Your Guide to Contraception (PDF)

Contraception is divided into two types:

Methods with no user failure – methods that don't depend on you remembering to take or use them.

Methods with user failure – methods you have to use and think about regularly or each time you have sex. Must be used according to instructions.

Find out more about:

How do I choose a method?

There are many methods of contraception to choose from and it’s worth taking the time to find out more about each one so that you can choose contraception that suits you. There are two methods of contraception specifically for men – the male (external) condom and sterilisation (vasectomy) – and 13 for women. You can find more detailed information about each method at www.fpa.org.uk/contraception. You can also talk through the different methods with a doctor or nurse.

Some of the things you might want to think about are:

  • whether you (or a partner) want to become pregnant fairly soon, many years away or not at all
  • how you (and/or a partner) want contraception to suit your lifestyle
  • whether you (or a partner) want to use a contraceptive method every day, every time you have sex or less often.

Your answers should influence your decision about what contraception to use.

My Contraception Tool

My Contraception Tool is an interactive tool that can help you choose a method of contraception. Answer some simple questions about your lifestyle and preferences and the tool will show you which methods of contraception could suit you.


This website can only give you general information. The information is based on evidence-guided research from the World Health Organization and The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

All methods of contraception come with a Patient Information Leaflet which provides detailed information about the method. Remember - contact your doctor, practice nurse or a sexual health clinic if you’re worried or unsure about anything.

INFORMATION LAST UPDATED MAY 2017. NEXT PLANNED REVIEW BY MAY 2020.

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