Contraception

Contraception helps to prevent unwanted pregnancy and there's no shortage of choice with 12 methods available. Please contact our service if you want to talk about or access any of these methods.

Emergency contraception

‘Morning after’ pill

IUD

3 – 5 days after sex

Contraceptive implant

99% effective

Lasts for 3 years

Uses the hormone progestogen

Injections

99% effective

Can lighten periods

Can be used when breastfeeding

Doesn’t protect against STIs

Copper coil (IUD)

99% effective

Lasts 5-10 years

No hormones

Doesn’t prevent STIs

Hormonal coil (IUS)

99% effective

Can lighten or stop periods

Lasts 3-5 years

Contraceptive pill

99% effective – if used perfectly

Can cause temporary side effects

Condoms

Protect against STIs

No side effects

Available free of charge

Diaphragms

Less effective

No side-effects

Does not protect against STIs

Contraceptive patch

99% effective

Easy to use

Doesn’t protect against STIs

Vaginal ring

99% effective

Easy to put in and take out

Makes periods less heavy

Doesn’t protect against STIs

Sterilisation

99% effective

Permanent

Doesn’t affect hormones

Natural family planning

Complicated

Unreliable

Doesn’t protect against STIs

Contraception - Easy read

Contraception for women over 40

Stylised image of a woman
Stylised image of a man
Easy read

Contraception can help to prevent pregnancy and some sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are lots of types of contraception to choose from depending on the type of person you are, your lifestyle  and the type of sex you are having. Barrier methods of contraception such as the condom or the diaphragm work by stopping sperm from reaching an egg. Condoms are also the most effective way of preventing STIs. Long acting reversible contraception (LARC) such as the contraceptive implant, the hormonal IUS (Intra-uterine System) or the contraceptive injection work by altering hormone levels in a woman’s body so that they don’t get pregnant. This type of contraceptive means that you don’t have to remember to take it on a regular basis. The pill is another very common type of contraception and can have the added benefit of reducing period pain.

If you have very recently had unprotected sex or if the condom broke and you are worried about pregnancy then emergency contraception such as the ‘morning after pill’ (emergency hormonal contraception) or the copper coil are available from our clinics and some pharmacies.

If you regularly change partners or are a man who has sex with another man then we would recommend that you use condoms every time you have sex. If you are at the start or end of a relationship of any kind or if you have not been tested for STIs then we would recommend that you also use condoms.

We have tried to include as much information about the different types of contraception in this section as possible but it can seem very confusing especially if it is your first time. Don’t worry, we’re here to help and would be very happy to talk to you about what your options are and what will work best for you. Click here to find out how to contact us.

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Accessing our service

In response to the emergence of COVID-19 we have implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

We are currently experiencing high demand for our Sexual Health Services across Devon and Torbay with unprecedented demand in Exeter. Please note always review urgent cases the same day. If your need is urgent and you are struggling to reach us keep trying as our phone system will explain how to access same-day care with us.

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception here.

Self-requested STI testing by post is available for those aged under 25- more info

We are now running an under 18’s sit and wait clinic at Exeter, Torquay, and Barnstaple for more information click here

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - from a local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info