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Contraception health centre

Contraceptive alternatives to condoms and the Pill

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

There’s more to contraception than those old favourites the Pill and the condom. It’s true they are the method of choice for around half of us but there are other contraception options that may suit you better.

Figures suggest that 25% of women take the pill and a further 25% of men use condoms as their choice of contraception. However, there is a trend towards using long-acting contraceptives, especially among younger people.

If you’re are unhappy with your current contraception, it’s worth considering other options like coils, injections and implants. These can be a good choice as they don’t require you to remember to do something for them to work. Talk it over with your GP or family planning nurse so you can decide on the best method for you.

For the low down on what’s out there BootsWebMD has asked the experts - Dr Virginia Beckett, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Natika H Halil, chief executive of sexual health charity FPA (Family Planning Association).

What is the contraceptive patch?

Virginia: The contraceptive patch is a sticky patch which delivers hormones into a woman’s body through the skin. It contains the same hormones as the combined pill, and it works in the same way to prevent ovulation and by thickening cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to travel through the cervix. When used correctly, the patch is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

What are the other benefits of the patch?

Natika: Benefits of the patch include that you don’t have to think about it every day, as you only have to remember to replace the patch once a week. Using the patch, bleeding will usually become more regular, lighter and less painful. 

For some women the patch can help with premenstrual symptoms and improve acne. Another benefit is, unlike the pill, the hormones do not need to be absorbed by the stomach, so the patch is not affected if you vomit or have diarrhoea.

What is the vaginal ring?

Virginia: The vaginal ring is a small, soft plastic ring that can be left inside the vagina for 21 days, then removed and thrown away. Seven days after removing the ring, women can insert a new one for the next 21 days. The ring releases oestrogen and progestogen, which prevents ovulation (the release of an egg), and also makes it difficult for sperm to get to an egg. If used correctly, the vaginal ring is more than 99% effective. 

How do you use the vaginal ring?

Natika: Your doctor or nurse will show you how to insert and remove the ring. Not everyone can use the vaginal ring so your doctor or nurse will need to ask you about your own and your family’s medical history.

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