The only way to protect yourself from getting pregnant or getting an STI is to practice safer sex. Practising safer sex is only possible when you understand what risky sex is.

It's important to sort out contraception before having sex. You don't have to be having sex to ask for advice, it's always good to think ahead and be prepared. Contraceptives work in different ways and you may wish to try out different types to see which works best for you.

The ways that contraceptive work are usually by:

  • They put a physical barrier between sperm and egg (such as condoms)
  • They use hormones that stop your body releasing an egg and cause other changes that prevent a pregnancy happening (such as the pill, implant or the IUS) or;
  • They change the environment in your womb so that sperm die before they reach the egg.

Remember: condoms are the only contraception that also offer protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

There are 13 different kinds of contraception and not all contraception needs to be taken every day. For example there are some kinds of contraception that you have to take every day (like the pill) or some that you can use once a week or once a month (ie. contraceptive patch). There are also types of contraception that can last longer (eg. contraceptive implant, injection or IUS). All forms of contraception that last longer than 1 day are known as 'Long acting reversible contraception' or LARC

Emergency Contraception

If you have had sex without using contraception or think your contraception hasn't worked, you can take an emergency hormonal contraceptive (EHC) pill (aka 'the morning after pill').
If you are under 25, the pharmacist listed can provide you with a free, confidential and friendly service for emergency contraception. Young people friendly pharmacies offering EHC are listed on the local stuff page. EHC is also available for free from your GP, family planning clinics, sexual health clinics and in exceptional circumstances hospitals' A&E.

EHC works best the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex, the EHC pill is not effective if taken later than 72hrs after unprotected sex

If it is more than 72 hours since having sex, there might still be options but you will need to see your GP, or one of the clinics listed on the local stuff page.


Up to five days after unprotected sex, an intra-uterine device (IUD) can be fitted as EHC to prevent pregnancy it is more effective the earlier you take it after unprotected sex. If it is more than five days since having sex, there may still be options but you would need to see your GP or one of the clinics listed in the local page.

Think you might be pregnant?

A woman can get pregnant:

  • The first time she has sex;
  • During her period;
  • Even if she doesnt have an orgasm;
  • Even if the man pulls out before he comes;
  • No matter what position she has sex in; and
  • Even if she douches (squirts liquid into her vagina). Douching can be harmful.

If you think you may be pregnant, do a pregnancy test.

Pregnancy tests can tell whether you are pregnant once your period is five days late.

You can get a pregnancy test:

If you are pregnant and you want to talk to someone about your options, you can visit any young people's sexual health service, contraceptive clinic, or your GP.

If you choose to continue with the pregnancy speak to your local maternity services as soon as possible. See here for local details

Abortion services

If you are pregnant and want to talk to someone about your options or you have decided to have an abortion (aka termination of pregnancy'), the sooner you talk to a professional, the more options will be available to you. Remember an NHS abortion is free.

You can be referred to an abortion clinic by your GP, a young people's clinic or a contraceptive clinic. If you live in Camden you can refer yourself by calling: Camden Central booking line 0845 300 2922. Lines are open 24-hours. For more information, visit mariestopes.org.uk.

After the abortion you should always book a follow up appointment to check that all is well with your GP or a Sexual Health/Contraceptive clinic (see local stuff for contact details).

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