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Whether you are male or female, if you decide to have sex, you must also decide to protect yourself and your partner from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Prescribed contraception will, if used properly, protect a girl from becoming pregnant - but unless it's a condom, it won't protect either partner from passing sexual infections to each other.

If you're under 16, a doctor can prescribe contraceptives for you without telling your parents - as long as the doctor believes that you are mature enough to understand what is being proposed.

People tend to only think about the pill or condoms. There are, in fact several different options available to use:

No Sex

It has to be said that the best form of contraception is not to have sex in the first place! It is the only form of of contraception that is 100% effective. This is why it is really important that you wait to have sex until you are really sure you want to accept the risks involved.


Male condoms are put onto the penis to present a physical barrier to sperm. Female condoms fit inside the vagina to present a physical barrier to sperm. Both of these have the added bonus of protecting you against sexually transmitted infections. Male Condoms are 86% - 98% effective against stopping unwanted pregnancies. Female condoms are 79-95% effective. Never use a male and female condom at the same time!

Contraceptive implant

A small flexible tube containing progestogen is inserted under the skin of a woman's upper arm by a doctor ortrained professional. It is 99.9% effective and lasts for three years

The Pill

This is taken by the female partner and it works by fooling the body into thinking the woman is pregnant. By doing this the woman's ovaries stop releasing eggs and therefore prevent pregnancy. The Pill is 99% effective against stopping unwanted pregnancies.

The Cap or diaphragm

This is a latex rubber dome that is inserted in the vagina and placed over the cervix just prior to sex and prevents a physically barrier to sperm. It has to be used with a spermicidal gel (see below). This method is 80-94% effective.

Spermicidal Gel

A gel combining a chemical which kills sperm on contact. The gel should never be used on it's own but can be used in addition to other methods of birth control like the cap (above). The lubricant on most condoms contains a spermicide.

The coil or IUD (intrauterine device)

A small plastic or metal device inserted in the uterus by a medical professional. Some cause a mild irritation that prevents fertilization or implantation others cause hormone changes. An IUD is 97.4-99% effective against stopping unwanted pregnancies. IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Injections (often know as "The Shot")

Depo Provera is an injectable form of contraception (given as shots - hence the name). The shots must be given at specific times by medical professionals. They work by preventing eggs from being released. The shot is 99.7% effective against stopping unwanted pregnancies but they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Emergency contraception/the morning after pill

The fact that this is commonly known as the morning after pill often puts people of using it because they can't get it the next day. Emergency contraception can in fact be taken as long as 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex.......... and in some cases it if may still have some effect after a longer period.

Where do you get contraceptives?

You can get contraceptives free from Doctors, Family Planning Clinics, Sexual Health Clinics and C Card pick up points once registered to the scheme. Virtually all the contraceptives listed above need to be prescribed by one of the health care workers mentioned previously except condoms which are available in many shops and in Cambridgeshire Youth Workers can give them out for free.

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