Top Contraception Information
Heading to university is an exciting time. You’re away from home, meeting loads of new people and establishing your new social life; a big step in up your independence. For some this means being sexually active – and it’s important to understand how best to protect yourself through contraception.
There are many places you can get sexual health and contraception advice. You should always register with a local GP in the town or city you are studying in so that you can get information and prescriptions from your doctor. If you don’t feel comfortable going to your GP, there are dedicated sexual health clinics, and there may be specialist services through your student union. Wherever you go, be assured that your questions and any potential treatment will remain private and confidential. Contraception is nothing to be embarrassed about and you should not be afraid looking for help.
The type of contraception you choose depends on your personal situation – including your relationships and any existing health conditions. Different methods also have different levels of effectiveness. Here is a quick guide to the different types of contraception available:
Condoms are one of the most common types of contraception. They are usually made from very thin latex, but are available in polyisoprene or polyurethane for those allergic to latex. They are the only contraceptive method that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy. This means they are very useful for people who have casual sexual partners, as well as those in new relationships. When used correctly, male condoms are over 98 per cent effective as a contraceptive, while female condoms are 95 per cent successful. Condoms are often used in conjunction with the contraceptive pill below.
There are two types of contraceptive pill brands, the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill. Both types of pill use hormones to stop a woman from becoming pregnant, but they work in different ways. The combined pill must be taken every day for three weeks and then stop for seven days, during which you will have a period-like bleed. The progestogen-only pill – also known as the mini pill – is taken every day without a break. Both contraceptive pills can be as much as 99 per cent effective when used correctly, but they do not protect against STIs.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve had unprotected sex, or your contraceptive method has failed, it is important to consider your next step. Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy. There are two types available, the morning-after pill and the copper intrauterine device (IUD). The morning-after pill includes a high dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy. There are two types, one of which can be taken up to 72 hours after sex (Levonelle – available free on prescription or bought over the counter), and one up to 120 hours (ellaOne – prescription only). The effectiveness of both pills decreases with time, but they prevent 95 per cent of pregnancies if taken within 24 hours. The IUD is a small plastic and copper device, which sits within your womb. It must be fitted by a health professional and works up to five days after unprotected sex. It is up to 99 per cent effective.
It is important to remember that the morning after pill cannot be used as a regular form of contraceptive as the overuse can cause large hormonal imbalances within your system– however, the IUD can be used as an on-going method and does not use hormones.
These are just some of the contraceptive options available to students – if you’re unsure of the best one for you, you can seek advice from any of the places mentioned above.