People use contraception, or birth control, when having sex to prevent pregnancy. Some people are not sexually active but still use contraception – just in case. There are many forms of contraception including pills, injections, implants and condoms. Additionally, condoms are the only method which also prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV being passed on.
There are several different types of contraception, but almost all of these are designed to be used by women and many of them work in similar ways, by stopping eggs from being released. The condom is the main type of contraception designated for men to use.
Where do you get it?
Most contraception is prescribed by a doctor or nurse, so you can visit your GP surgery, your local sexual health service or local young person’s clinic.
You don’t need a prescription to get condoms - you can pick up free condoms at all of these places or buy them in a variety of shops, pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as online.
How much does it cost?
All prescribed contraception is free. Condoms are available in different shapes, sizes, colours, flavours and quantities. When sold, they cost from about £2.50 for a pack of three.
Do you have to be over 16 to get contraception?
Once you are 16 you can consent to and make decisions about your medical treatment, including contraception.
If you are under 16, it is not legal to have sex but this does not mean that a doctor cannot give you contraception. A doctor or nurse can give you contraception if they feel you are mature enough to understand properly the decision you are making and the impact it may have on your health and wellbeing.
In particular, they will consider if you are able to tell your parents, if it's likely that you will have sex even if you don’t have contraception, and if it is within your best interests to receive medical treatment without your parent or guardian’s knowledge.
Again, condoms are different - there are no age restrictions on buying condoms. If you are over 13 you can pick them up free from clinics. If you are under 13, condoms are not freely issued to you but you can enrol in a C-Card scheme at your local sexual health clinic.
Types of contraception
There are four main types of contraception: barrier methods, hormonal methods, Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) and natural contraception. You can read about the different types further on in this section ››
It is really important to realise that a man withdrawing from his partner’s vagina or anus before he ejaculates (cums) is NOT a method of contraception or a safeguard against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
This is because once the penis is erect it releases a small amount of liquid called pre-cum, which may contain sperm. This could be enough to cause pregnancy or pass on an infection.