About contraception – frequently asked questions

Got a question about contraception? You're in the right place.

You can get free contraception, including emergency contraception, from:

  • a general practice, unless they say they don’t provide contraception services
  • a contraception clinic or a sexual health clinic
  • a young people’s service (these will have an upper age limit).

You can also get emergency contraceptive pills free from:

  • some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • most NHS walk-in centres (England only)
  • some pharmacies (there may be an age limit)
  • most NHS minor injuries units
  • some hospital accident and emergency departments (phone first to check).

You can buy emergency contraceptive pills from most pharmacies including many online pharmacies. Some pharmacies may offer a click and collect service so you can order online and collect from a shop on the same day.

Pills with ulipristal acetate cost around £20-£35 and pills with the hormone levonorgestrel cost around £10-£25. You'll need to be 16 or over to buy pills with levonorgestrel. Find out more about the different types of emergency contraception.

Pharmacies may also sell condoms, internal condoms, diaphragms, caps and spermicide.

  • Use FPA's Find a Clinic tool.
  • Details of general practices and pharmacies in England are at www.nhs.uk and in Wales at www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk.
  • In Scotland, details of general practices are at www.nhsinform.scot.
  • Call NHS 111 in England, NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 in Wales (or 111 in some areas), and NHS 24 on 111 in Scotland.
  • In Northern Ireland, call the FPA Northern Ireland helpline or for details of general practices see www.hscni.net.
  • Get details of your nearest contraception, GUM or sexual health clinic from Find a Clinic, the website for your local sexual health service, a health centre, local pharmacy, hospital, midwife, health visitor or advice centre.
  • Get details of Brook young people’s services from Brook.

The Sexual Health Helpline provides confidential advice and information on all aspects of sexual health. The number is 0300 123 7123. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9am-8pm.

Contraception clinics sometimes provide far more than contraception. This may include:

  • checks for sexually transmitted infections
  • pre-pregnancy advice/pregnancy testing
  • help and advice on an unplanned pregnancy (including abortion, adoption and continuing the pregnancy)
  • safer sex advice
  • advice on sexual problems
  • cervical screening tests (smear tests) and breast awareness
  • menopause advice
  • infertility advice.

Sex without using contraception can put you at risk of pregnancy at any time during the menstrual cycle. It's a myth that you can't get pregnant if you have sex when you're on your period.

You can use emergency contraception up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is more effective at preventing pregnancy the earlier it's used.

Sex without using a condom can put you at greater risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

More about STIs including symptoms, tests and treatment.

No. If you're under 16 you can get confidential advice and contraception.

Health workers (nurses, doctors and pharmacists) work under very specific guidance with this age group.

You must be mature enough to understand the advice and any decisions made about giving you contraception.

Health workers (doctors, nurses and pharmacists) have to keep anything you tell them private but they'll usually encourage you to talk to a parent or carer.

If a health worker thinks there's a risk to your health, safety or welfare they might need to share your information with someone else. The risk would need to be serious and the health worker would usually discuss this with you first.

It's an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16.

The law isn't intended to criminalise mutually agreed sexual activity between two young people of similar age and understanding, unless it involves abuse, exploitation or harm.

Young people have the right to access confidential advice on contraception, including condoms and pregnancy, even if they're under 16.

Brook has advice on sexual health, contraception and your rights as a young person.

Information last updated:
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This website can only give you general information about contraception.

Contact your doctor, practice nurse or a contraception clinic if you're worried or unsure about anything.