Contraception

Short-acting Methods

Contraceptive pills, patches and rings are very effective methods of contraception but only if they are used correctly. Effectiveness rates for typical use are less than effectiveness rates for long-acting contraception methods because it can be very easy to forget to take pills or change patches and rings.Short-acting contraceptives include:-

  • The combined oral contraception pill
  • The progestogen only pill (the mini pill)
  • The contraceptive patch
  • The contraceptive ring (nuvaring)

Pills and patches are available free of charge from Sexual Health Sheffield’s Contraception Service. Please note, the contraceptive ring is NOT available from Sexual Health Sheffield.

Remember, while these forms of contraception are effective at preventing pregnancy they will not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It may be advisable to use condoms or femidoms (the female condom) as well, find out more on our Condom User Guide page.

Combined Oral Contraception Pill

The combined oral contraception pill (COCP) is often referred to as the ‘birth control pill’ or ‘the pill. This pill contains artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries. COCP works by:-

  • Stopping eggs being released
  • Thickening the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm meeting an egg
  • Thinning the lining of the womb to stop eggs implanting

You need to take the pill at the same time every day for 21 days, and then stop for seven days. During the week that you aren’t taking the pill you have a period-type bleed. You start taking the pill again after seven days.

It’s important that you take the pill at the correct time every day. If you think this would not be possible, this might not be the best method for you and you may be better trying one of the long-acting contraception methods

The combined oral contraception pill is over 99% effective if used correctly but typical usage suggests that the actual effectiveness rate is 92%.

Click here to download our service leaflet about the combined oral contraception pill.

Progestogen Only Pill

The progestogen only pill (POP) is sometimes called ‘the mini pill’. This pill contains an artificial version of the female hormone progestogen. Unlike the combined oral contraceptive pill, it does not contain oestrogen. This pill can, therefore, be used by women who can’t use contraception that contains oestrogen – for example, because they have high blood pressure, previous blood clots or are overweight. POP works by:-

  • Stopping eggs being released
  • Thickening the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm meeting an egg
  • Thinning the lining of the womb to stop eggs implanting

You need to take the pill at or around the same time every day because if you take it more than three hours late it may not be effective.

It’s important that you take the pill at the correct time every day. If you think this would not be possible, this might not be the best method for you and you might be better trying one of the long-acting contraception methods.

The progestogen only pill is over 99% effective if used correctly but typical usage suggests that the actual effectiveness rate is 91%.

Click here to download our service leaflet about the progestogen only pill

Contraceptive Patch

The contraceptive patch looks very similar to the nicotine patches used for helping people to stop smoking. These patches contain artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. They work by:-

  • Stopping eggs being released
  • Thickening the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm meeting an egg
  • Thinning the lining of the womb to stop eggs implanting

The patches are placed on any area of your body, as long as the skin is clean, dry and not very hairy. You apply a new patch once a week (every seven days) for three weeks, and then stop using the patch for seven days. This is known as your patch-free week. During your patch-free week you will get a withdrawal bleed, like a period, although this may not always happen.

The effectiveness rate of typical use of the contraceptive patch is 91%.

It is very important to remember to take check that the patch stays in position and to remember to change the patch at the correct time. Because of this, it may be that you might be better trying one of the long-acting contraception methods.

Contraceptive Ring (Nuvaring)

The contraceptive ring is a new device that contains artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone and works in a similar way to the combined oral contraceptive pill in that it:-

  • Stops eggs being released
  • Thickens the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm meeting an egg
  • Thins the lining of the womb to stop eggs implanting

The contraceptive ring is worn inside the vagina for 3 weeks out of every 4. When the ring is prescribed, a doctor or nurse will show you how to fit the ring – there isn’t a right or wrong place for it to be in the vagina as long as it isn’t uncomfortable.

The vaginal ring is worn for 21 days. After 21 days you need to remove the ring and throw it in the bin (not down the toilet) in a special disposal bag. Seven days after removing the ring, you insert a new one for the next 21 days.

The vaginal ring is about 99% effective if used correctly but typical usage suggests that the actual effectiveness rate is 91%.

It is very important to remember to use the vaginal ring exactly as shown and to remember when to take it out and when to put a new ring in. Because of this, it may be that you might be better trying one of the long-acting contraception methods.