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- Boys’ bodies Q&A
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- Keeping your vagina clean and healthy
- Vagina changes after childbirth
Contraception is free for most people in the UK, and there are are about 15 types to choose from. Find out what’s available and where you can get it.
Contraceptive methods protect against pregnancy.
If you use contraception correctly, you can have sex without worrying about getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant.
Most methods of contraception won’t protect you against catching or passing on a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Condoms are the only method that can protect against both STIs and pregnancy.
Protect your own and your partner’s health by using condoms as well as your chosen method of contraception.
Will they tell my parents?
Contraception services are free and confidential, including for people under 16 years old.
This means the doctor or nurse won’t tell your parents or anyone else, as long as they believe you’re mature enough to understand the information and decisions involved.
There are strict guidelines for healthcare professionals who work with people under 16.
If they believe there’s a risk to your safety and welfare, they may decide to tell your parents.
The risk would need to be serious, and they’d usually discuss this with you first.
Where to get free contraception
You can get free contraception and condoms from:
- most GP surgeries (talk to your GP or practice nurse)
- community contraceptive clinics
- some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
- sexual health clinics (these offer contraceptive and STI testing services)
- some young people’s services
Find your nearest sexual health service, including contraceptive clinics.
Many of these places offer information, testing and treatment for STIs, including chlamydia.
If you have been exposed to the risk of pregnancy, you may also be at risk of catching an STI.
There are lots of contraceptive methods to choose from. You should use a method that suits you, not just because your friends are using it.
Don’t be put off if the first method you use isn’t quite right for you: you can try another.
Read more about the contraceptive options available to help you decide which one will suit you best:
Two types of contraception are permanent:
You can also find out more about all 15 of these options by contacting:
- Brook – the young people’s sexual health charity for under-25s
- fpa – provider of information on individual methods of contraception, including the My contraception tool, which suggests types of contraception to suit you and your lifestyle; also provides information on common STIs, pregnancy choices, abortion, and planning a pregnancy
- the National Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123
In addition to your chosen method of contraception, you need to use condoms to prevent STIs.
Always buy condoms that have the CE mark or BSI kite mark on the packet.
This means they have been tested to high safety standards.
Condoms that don’t have the CE mark or BSI kite mark won’t meet these standards, so don’t use them.
Video: types of contraception
In this video, an expert gives advice for teenage girls about different types of contraception.
Condom, no condom?
Condom, no condom? is an interactive video on YouTube where you decide what happens.
Just choose which button to click at the end of each section to continue the story and see the consequences of your choices.
Page last reviewed: 6 August 2018
Next review due: 6 August 2021
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Every day thousands of teenagers are putting themselves at risk for pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and severe turmoil emotionally. Instead of thinking about all the consequences, more and more teens are becoming sexually active without completely understanding the precautions that need to be taken when doing so. Providing teens with the option of using a condom without question would greatly decrease these risks. The teens that are sexually active will most likely have sex with or without a condom, so providing them with total confidentiality would make these teens comfortable enough to make the responsible choice to use one. Some people may argue that condom distribution is a misguided solution due to the fact that it influences sexual promiscuity; however, that is a misconception because teenagers are quite capable of making good decisions, they just need to be better informed. The option of condoms being distributed in high schools needs to be implemented as soon as possible.
By providing condoms in high school it would give protection against pregnancy and STDs to otherwise at risk teens. Society needs to face the reality that teens are engaging in unprotected sex because of the lack of availability of protection. Instead, they want to blame media and other things for imprinting on teenagers that sex is cool. According to the New York Times, a study carried out by the American Academy of Pediatrics in April 2006, twelve-to fourteen-year-old teens exposed to sexual content through music, movies, television, and magazines are twice as likely to become sexually active within two years. Though this may hold some truth, teenagers are maturing faster in this century than any other. If they are educated well enough on all possible options, teens are very capable of making good decisions even though such things are supposedly influencing them. People who are against the idea of allowing teenagers to have full access to condoms because it is morally unacceptable need to realize that some teens could care less about if sex is morally just or not. The best thing to do to successfully reduce these indicated risks is to stop trying to drill abstinence is the only way into teenager’s heads. One thing teenagers cannot stand is someone telling them what they should do; therefore, just educate them on every means of protection. Yes, abstinence is the only fool proof way of complete protection, but the teenagers who decide not to wait need to know the safest way possible to prevent such issues. That is why along with providing condoms in high schools, instead of abstinence-only sex education; comprehensive sex education needs to be taught. The difference between these two is that in comprehensive sex education, not only is abstinence taught, but it also covers contraceptive and disease-prevention methods including condom use.
Furthermore, teens that are currently sexually active will most likely have sex with or without a condom, but if free access to condoms were inflicted they most likely would choose to use one. In the article Family Planning Perspectives (1998), A program that allowed availability to condoms was successfully enforced in a Los Angeles County High School and actually showed that it does decrease unprotected sex. This program concluded that it did not produce an increase in sexual activity but appeared to have led to improved condom use among males. The percentage of condom use among males who had already had used a condom every time went from 37% to 50%. The percentage of males reporting that they had used a condom the first time went from 46% to 56%. This particular study proves that condom availability in high schools does decrease unprotected sex, which in return, drastically decreases pregnancies and STDs. If such a program was implanted in every high school in the United States imagine how many lives it would save, not only from unplanned pregnancy, but deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
While teens may struggle with sexuality, they would struggle more if their decision to have sex without a condom because of embarrassment to buy them or unavailability resulted in a pregnancy or some sort of STD. Nowadays the only form of sexual education is abstinence only-based is, so how are teens supposed to use what they learn if they are not properly taught the other choices they have? Sex is a major decision among people of any age and may result in emotional distress no matter what protection measures are taken. If someone is not emotionally ready, they do not need to make such a decision. This still does not take away the fact that condoms need to be available for the ones that do engage in sexual activity. It may cause emotional problems, but people need to place that aside because at least they could use a condom to prevent other preventable troubles.
In conclusion, teenagers should not be having sex at all. Not every teenager is going to have sex; however, this is a growing problem that is resulting in teenage mothers and deadly, even incurable diseases. Schools need to stop trying to hide this issue and make the decision to at least provide some means of protection. Stop thinking about if it is morally right or whether it sends wrong messages, because it is already a proven fact that condoms drastically decrease pregnancies and STDs if they are properly used. If a school had the option to either provide them and save lives, or not provide them and possibly cause teenage pregnancy or spread of deadly disease why would they not want to make the obviously healthier decision? Please allow our nation’s adolescents abstinence alternatives.
Birth control can help prevent pregnancy. It can also help with menstrual cramps, heavy menstrual flow, and acne. There are many types of birth control, so teens should speak to a health care provider (HCP) to decide what method is best for them.
Talking to your teen about birth control
Talking openly with your teen about their changing body and about sex can be stressful, but it is important. As a parent, you’re in the best position to answer questions and talk about your values. Children and teens who have unanswered questions about sex and birth control and don’t feel comfortable asking a parent may rely on friends or go online, which often leads to misinformation.
Rather than having “the talk,” which can be overwhelming for both teens and parents, start discussions early, and share information long before you think they are ready to have sex. Ask your child—whether they are a boy or a girl—what they know about preventing pregnancy and protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is also an opportunity to have conversations about healthy relationships and consent. Being open shows that they can come to you with their questions and concerns. It also increases the odds that they will make good (and safer) decisions when they decide to have sex.
Encourage your teen to also discuss birth control with their HCP. Having an opportunity to speak with their HCP privately for at least part of their visit will ensure they have accurate information and help your teen participate in their health care.
Birth control methods
Understanding the benefits and risks of each birth control method allows your teen to choose the right method for them.
Remember: Whatever method your teen chooses, they should always use condoms as well. Condoms are the only birth control method that protects against HIV and some other STIs.
Intrauterine devices and systems (IUD and IUS)
An intrauterine device (IUD) or system (IUS) is a small (often T-shaped) device placed inside the uterus by a HCP to prevent pregnancy. IUDs:
- Are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Are the most effective and reliable birth control method, and often recommended first.
- Are safe for teens.
- Can be used long-term (3 to 7 years depending on the type).
- Can be removed at any time by a HCP.
- Have no hormones. IUSs have a small amount of hormones.
- Do not cause weight gain.
- Do not cause infertility.
- May increase the amount of menstrual bleeding and/or menstrual cramps. IUSs usually decrease menstrual cramps, the amount of menstrual bleeding, or may stop the period altogether.
Hormone injections are 94% effective at preventing pregnancy, and are given by a HCP every 3 months. Side effects can include:
- weight gain
- irregular spotting/bleeding, or stop the period altogether
- reversible bone loss
- delay of normal menstrual cycles once they are stopped
There are 2 types of pills: Combination of estrogen/progesterone, and progesterone-only.
- 91% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken properly.
- Side effects may include irregular bleeding (more frequent with progesterone-only pills), sore breasts, nausea or headaches.
- In general, pills do not cause weight gain.
- Some prescriptions or herbal medicines may impact effectiveness.
- Although rare, there is a small increase in the risk of having a blood clot or a stroke on the combination pill. That risk rises if you smoke. Pregnancy has a much higher risk of blood clots.
The vaginal ring is a soft small circle of plastic that releases hormones similar to the combination pill. The teen inserts the ring into the vagina and removes it after 3 weeks. During the fourth week, the teen gets a period.
- 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Same side effects and risks as the combination pill.
- Vaginal irritation or discharge is possible.
The patch is a tan colored square that sticks to the skin (either the arm, back, buttocks, belly or thigh). It must be worn for 3 weeks. During the fourth week (no patch), the teen should get a period. At the end of the fourth week, a new patch is applied.
- 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Same side effects and risks as the combination pill.
- Irritation or discoloration of the skin under the patch may occur.
- 82% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Highly effective at preventing pregnancy when used in combination with another contraception method.
- Offer protection from HIV and many (but not all) STIs.
- Often free at teen clinics or public health clinics.
- Having access to condoms does not encourage sexual activity, but it does make it more likely that sex will be safer when it happens.
Emergency contraception can be used shortly after having unprotected sex (or if a condom breaks) to prevent pregnancy. It is a “back up” method and should not be used as a primary method of birth control.
Helping your teen get the most out of their birth control
Skipping periods: Studies show that it is safe to skip periods by skipping the week off (period week) and immediately starting a new pack of pills, patch, or ring. Your teen can talk to their HCP to see if this is a good option.
No Pap needed: Pelvic exams and Pap smears use to done before prescribing birth control. However, exams cause a great deal of stress and don’t give much information unless the teen is having specific symptoms. National guidelines suggest waiting until the early 20s before starting Pap tests, unless the teen has problems with their immune system. Sexually active teens should still be screened for STIs at least once a year.
Year-long prescriptions: Year-long prescriptions encourage teens to take their birth control consistently. They are less likely to run out of birth control unexpectedly. Parents can help by keeping track of when refills need to be picked up, and prescriptions renewed.
Sex + Relationships
In an ideal world, your kids would come to you before they have sex, but that’s unlikely. So you may have to beat them to the punch.
A common question I hear parents asking is how to give their teenage children access to birth control even if they do not want them having sex yet. I managed to get my children and 37 of their friends through adolescence without a single pregnancy or abortion. Here are nine ways you can follow my lead:
- Check your judgments at the door. Sure, we don’t want kids having sex before they’re ready, but being judgmental about teen sex is not an effective way to get kids to use condoms.
- Get over the idea that your kids will talk to you before they have sex. Sure, in an optimal world, they would consult you and have your full blessing before they have sex, but when was the last time you wanted to talk to anyone, including your parents, before you had sex with a new partner? Do you really want to gamble your kids’ future on them feeling comfortable talking to you about their sexual feelings?
- Acknowledge how problematic it is for kids to get condoms. They have two options: a store and you as parents. At stores, they are often the object of scorn and suspicion. In the area where our children attended high school, there was one grocery store and one pharmacy that sold condoms. In both locations, condoms were kept behind the counter and sold by disapproving church ladies. For those living in the far reaches of the county, the nearest store selling condoms was more than 20 miles away. If you give your kids a package of condoms, they know that you can check on their sexual activity just by checking how many are gone.
- Change how you think about condoms. Think of them as a community resource, something that should be available to every person over the age of consent. If you are having a hard time with that, try imagining that you lived in an area where smallpox is rampant but where the people most in danger have the greatest difficulty getting the vaccine. You, on the other hand, have access to a nearly unlimited supply. Wouldn’t you feel an obligation to make this life-saving resource available to others? Condoms are a life-saving resource for many teens, but it is one they have little access to.
- Be a resource of information and condoms not just for your own children, but for their friends who may not have understanding adults in their lives. When you make condoms available to anyone who needs them, you make it far more likely that your child will take and use condoms when s/he is ready to have sex. You can tell your children that while you are sure they will wait until they are older and they will include you in their decision-making process, you realize that some of their friends will not. Express how much you like their friends, and how concerned you are that they have protection.
- Choose the container and spot for the condom stash with care. We kept our stash in a very large cookie jar. We loved the cookie jar because of the wholesome image it projected and because it is neither clinical nor threatening. Our first choice for a location, a shelf in the kitchen, turned out to be a mistake. We discovered that a public location like a kitchen made kids worry that their friends would see them taking condoms. We ended up moving the cookie jar to a shelf behind the toilet in the guest bathroom. It allowed kids to take what they needed without the risk of being seen.
- Stock your condom cookie jar with a variety of condoms, preferably in bulk. Often you can get them at cost from a Planned Parenthood clinic. You are going to want to have at least four kinds: flavored for oral sex, regular with spermicidal lubrication, extra large, and condoms without lubrication. The reason for stocking condoms without spermicide is that a surprising number of people are allergic or at least have serious sensitivity to the most commonly used spermicide. I know people who swear that they hate condoms who have switched to non-spermicidal condoms and found that they didn’t mind them all that much.
- In the cookie jar, we also kept a package of Plan B. This is something you will have to make your own personal decision about since it is illegal to knowingly provide Plan B to a minor who cannot legally buy it. After much thought, Pete and I decided that there are some acts of civil disobedience that are worth the risk. Still we minimized the risk by telling our children: “This is for your use. If you give it to any other person, you can be arrested under drug laws. However, we are leaving it in this public place, and if it happens to go missing, we will not ask any questions.”
- Be prepared for the consequences. Hypothetically, you can get arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Remarkably, for over five years, I had an open cookie jar policy and not a single person in our small rural community objected other than my mother. I have always wondered if the teenagers kept it a secret or if other members of the community simply did not want to take me on.
Here is how following these steps worked out for my children and their friends: Not one of my children’s 37 close friends got pregnant. The condoms worked.
Lynn Beisner is the pseudonym for a mother, a writer, a feminist, and an academic living somewhere East of the Mississippi. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
What Are Condoms?
Condoms are thin pouches that keep sperm from getting into the vagina. There are male condoms and female condoms:
- A male condom is worn on the penis. It is usually made of latex, a type of rubber. But some are made of materials that are safe for people with latex allergies, such as polyurethane or polyisoprene.
- A female condom is inserted into the vagina. It has a flexible ring at either end. One end is closed and goes into the vagina; the other end is open and the ring sits outside the opening of the vagina. The female condoms now available are made from materials safe for people with latex allergies.
How Do Condoms Work?
Condoms work by keeping semen (the fluid that contains sperm) from entering the vagina. The male condom is placed on the penis when it becomes erect. It is unrolled all the way to the base of the penis while holding the tip of the condom to leave some extra room at the end. This creates a space for semen after ejaculation and makes it less likely that the condom will break.
After the male ejaculates, he should hold the condom at the base of the penis as he pulls out of the vagina. He must do this while the penis is still erect. This prevents the condom from slipping off when he gets soft, which could let sperm enter the vagina.
The female condom is inserted into the vagina using the closed-end ring. The other ring creates the open end of the condom. The condom then lines the walls of the vagina, creating a barrier between the sperm and the cervix. The female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse. It should be removed immediately after sex and before standing up.
The male and female condoms should not be used at the same time because friction can break them, make them stick together, or make one or the other slip out of place during intercourse. If a condom breaks or slips, semen can get through, making the condom less likely to prevent pregnancy or STDs.
How Well Do Condoms Work?
Over the course of a year:
- 15 out of 100 typical couples who use male condoms will have an accidental pregnancy.
- About 21 out of 100 couples who use female condoms will have an accidental pregnancy.
For added protection, many couples use condoms along with another method of birth control, like birth control pills or an IUD. For condoms to have their best chance of working, they must be used every time a couple has sex.
A condom cannot be reused. A new condom should be used each time a couple has sex and it must be used from start to finish to protect against pregnancy and STDs. Never use oil-based lubricants (such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly, or baby oil) with condoms because they can break down the rubber. Condoms also can be damaged by things like fingernails and body piercings.
If a condom seems dry, sticky, or stiff when it comes out of the package, or is past its expiration date, throw it away and use a new one instead. It’s helpful to have several condoms on hand in case there’s a problem with one. It’s best to store unused condoms in a cool, dry place.
Do Condoms Help Protect Against STDs?
Yes. Latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene condoms can help prevent many STDs if they are used correctly. Condoms made of lambskin do not work well to prevent STDs, including HIV/AIDs.
Condoms do not protect against infections spread from sores on the skin not covered by a condom (such as the base of the penis or scrotum). Couples having sex must always use condoms to protect against STDs even when using another method of birth control.
Abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that always prevents pregnancy and STDs.
Are There Any Problems With Condoms?
Most men and women have no problems using condoms. Side effects that can sometimes happen include:
- an allergic reaction in someone with an allergy to latex condoms
- irritation of the penis or the vagina from spermicides or lubricants that some condoms are treated with
Who Are Condoms Right for?
Condoms may be a good option for couples who are responsible enough to stop and put a condom on each time before sex and people who want protection against STDs.
Because condoms are the only method of birth control currently available for guys, they allow the male to take responsibility for birth control and STD protection.
Where are Condoms Available?
Condoms are easy to find in drugstores, supermarkets, and even vending machines. (In some stores, they’re in the “Family Planning” aisle.) Condoms do not require a doctor’s visit or a prescription.
How Much Do Condoms Cost?
Male condoms cost about $0.50 to $1 each and are less expensive when they are bought in boxes that contain several condoms. Many health centers and family planning clinics (such as Planned Parenthood) and some schools distribute them free of charge.
Female condoms are a little more expensive and cost about $2 per condom. Some health centers and family planning clinics have female condoms available for free.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
A girl using condoms should call the doctor if:
- she might be pregnant
- a condom broke during sex
- there’s a change in the smell or color of her vaginal discharge
- she has unexplained fever or chills
- she has belly or pelvic pain
- she has pain during sex
Your right to privacy and confidentiality
You can get confidential health care for birth control, sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), pregnancy, depression, and other mental health conditions, including drug and alcohol use. That means anything you and your provider talk about will stay between you and your health care team.
When you have a confidential visit, your privacy is protected by law. No information can be shared without your permission — not even with your parents.
The only time your provider would break confidentiality is if you tell them:
You’re being abused (physically or sexually)
In those situations, they’re required by law to break confidentiality.
If you have any issues you’d like to keep completely private, call the doctor’s office and ask to set up a confidential appointment.
When you call for a confidential appointment, tell the doctor’s office how old you are. They’ll talk you through next steps to make sure you get a private and confidential visit.
Effective and worry-free birth control methods
- You can get one placed by a provider, and you don’t have to worry about it for 3 to 12 years.
They’re over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. 2
There’s no daily routine.
You don’t need pharmacy refills.
They’re discreet and private.
The (hormonal) IUD and implant may decrease period cramps.
The (hormonal) IUD and implant typically make periods lighter.
Sex and consent
- Whether it’s for kissing, oral sex, anal sex, or vaginal sex, consent is mandatory. That means everyone involved freely agrees to do something sexual because they want to.
Before you do anything, you need to ask and get clear verbal consent and permission. If someone says no, respect their decision.
If you have vaginal sex and you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control. Birth control can have other benefits, too (like helping with PMS and acne).
Should I get on birth control?
You can get pregnant anytime you have penis-in-vagina (AKA vaginal) sex, including the very first time you have sex. So if you have vaginal sex — or think you might sometime soon — and you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control.
There are lots of different kinds of birth control. Some work better than others. But using any type of birth control is better than using nothing at all. People who have vaginal sex without birth control have an 85% chance of getting pregnant within a year.
Preventing pregnancy isn’t the only reason people use birth control — it can have lots of other benefits, too. Some kinds of hormonal birth control (like the pill, patch, ring, shot, implant, and the hormonal IUD) can do things like ease cramps and PMS, and make your periods lighter. The pill, patch, and ring can also help with acne and make your periods more regular. Almost everybody uses birth control at some point.
Bottom line: if there’s a chance you’ll be doing any sexy stuff that can lead to pregnancy, birth control is your friend. You can ask your doctor or local Planned Parenthood health center about getting on birth control, whatever your reason.
How do I get birth control?
You can get some types of birth control, like condoms, at drugstores or convenience stores. Anybody can buy condoms, and you don’t need to show your ID. Sometimes you can get free condoms from community clinics, your school nurse, or Planned Parenthood health centers. Condoms help protect you from STDs, too! So it’s good to use condoms even if you’re on another method of birth control.
Some types of birth control work better than others. You need to see a doctor or nurse to get the types of birth control that work best to prevent pregnancy — like the IUD, implant, shot, pill, patch, or ring. You can get these kinds of birth control from your regular doctor or gynecologist, or at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center.
Usually you don’t need a full exam to get birth control. But what happens at your appointment depends on your personal health, the doctor’s policies, and the kind of birth control you want. Here’s some stuff you can expect:
Your nurse or doctor will talk with you about your medical history (ask you questions about your health in the past) and check your blood pressure. Sometimes they do a pelvic exam, but they usually don’t need to.
The nurse or doctor may ask about your sex life: whether you’ve ever had sex, what kinds of sex, how many people you’ve had sex with, if you’ve used birth control before, etc. It’s super important to be honest so they can give you the best possible care. Doctors aren’t there to judge and they’ve heard it all before — they just want to help you stay healthy.
You can also ask any questions you have about birth control. You might want to talk with your doctor about the IUD or implant — these types of birth control are the easiest to use and work the best.
If you get the IUD, implant, or shot, your doctor will give it to you in the health center. If you choose the pill, patch, or ring, you’ll probably get a prescription. You can use the prescription to pick up your birth control at a drugstore or pharmacy. Some doctors might even have pills, patches, or rings in the health center to give to you at your appointment.
If you have health insurance, you probably won’t have to pay anything for your birth control. If you don’t have health insurance, ask your local Planned Parenthood health center about how to get free or low-cost birth control.
Will your parents find out if you get birth control from your doctor? It depends on the laws where you live and/or your doctor’s policies. But many places have special laws that let teens get birth control privately. Either way, talking to your parents about birth control can be really helpful. Read more about birth control, your parents, and privacy.
What if I mess up or don’t use birth control?
If you make a birth control mistake or have sex without using birth control at all, don’t freak out — you still have a few days to try to prevent pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is a kind of birth control that can help prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception means taking a “morning-after pill” or getting a copper IUD.
You can get some kinds of morning-after pills (like Plan B) at the drugstore or at your local Planned Parenthood health center without a prescription. But it’s important to take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex, or it won’t work as well. Another kind of morning-after pill, called ella, is more effective than morning-after pills like Plan B — but you need a prescription from a nurse or doctor to get it.
Getting a copper IUD within 5 days after unprotected sex is the most effective kind of emergency contraception. But a doctor needs to put the IUD in, and sometimes it can be hard to get an appointment on short notice.
Call your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood health center as soon as possible after unprotected sex for help figuring out the best type of emergency contraception for you. Learn more about emergency contraception.
Help us improve – how could this information be more helpful?
Experts say young women need to remember that STDs are still a danger
By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, March 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) — High school girls who use long-acting contraception — such as IUDs or implants — are less likely to focus on condom use than girls who are on the Pill, a new study finds.
Experts say the finding shows that many young women aren’t paying enough attention to the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which condoms help prevent.
“We need to work on crafting a clear message about pregnancy prevention and STI prevention,” Dr. Julia Potter, of the Boston Medical Center, and Dr. Karen Soren, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, wrote in a related editorial.
“Dual protection for sexually active adolescents should be encouraged, so that adolescents are not exposed to the risk of pregnancy or the risk of STIs as a result of selecting condom use vs. effective contraception use,” they said.
The new study was led by Riley Steiner, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and appears March 14 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Steiner’s team noted that the use of long-acting methods of contraception — intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants such as Nexplanon — is on the rise among teen girls. But at the same time, teens and young adults account for nearly 50 percent of all new STIs, the researchers said.
“There is a clear need for a concerted effort to improve condom use,” among teen girls using long-acting contraception, they wrote.
In the study, Steiner’s group tracked condom use among nearly 2,300 sexually active high school girls involved in the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The researchers found that almost 2 percent of the girls used a long-acting reversible contraceptive and close to 6 percent used Depo-Provera injection, patch or ring. Meanwhile, slightly more than 22 percent of the teens were taking the Pill.
About 41 percent of all the girls surveyed said that condoms were used during sex, while about 12 percent said they resorted to the “withdrawal method” in an attempt to not get pregnant.
And the researchers found that girls who used long-acting contraceptives were more than 60 percent less likely to use condoms than girls who took the Pill.
Girls using any form of long-acting contraceptive were also more than twice as likely as those on either Depo-Provera or the Pill to have more than one recent sexual partner.
There was no difference in condom use among girls on long-acting contraception and those using Depo-Provera, the study found.
The researchers also noted that almost 16 percent of the girls did not use any form of birth control at all.
The bottom line, according to Potter and Soren, is that “condoms still need to be part of the [sexual health] conversation because STIs are common in the adolescent population. . Condoms and [long-acting contraceptives] complement each other. We need to get the message right.”
SOURCE: JAMA Pediatrics, news release, March 14, 2016.