Let’s face it, your time at university will be a rollercoaster ride of easy-going good times and difficult, stressful times. Deadlines, dissertations and exams are hard enough to cope with when you’re really on top of your game. The last thing you need is to make things even harder by getting yourself or someone else pregnant. Many clinics suggest using condoms as well as another method, such as the combined pill, to be doubly safe and to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Here are some of the options available to you.
A condom is a sheath made of latex or polyurethane that covers the penis during sex. It must be rolled on very carefully when the penis is erect and before the penis touches the other person’s body. Sharp nails or jewellery can easily damage condoms, as can anything oil-based such as hand cream or Vaseline. There is also a female condom that can be worn inside the vagina. Condoms are the only contraceptives that also protect against most STIs. You can buy them from chemists and supermarkets, or get them free from health centres and sexual health clinics.
These are pills containing oestrogen and progestogens that prevent the female body from releasing eggs. Most brands are taken daily for 21 days, followed by a 7-day break. However, these may be made ineffective by vomiting or diarrhoea. If you have either of these symptoms use additional contraception like condoms, while vomiting and diarrhoea is happening and for 7 days after, until you’re protected again.
These are pills which contain progesterone and must be taken daily to remain effective (there is a 3 hour window for some and a 12 hour window for the most common one). As with the combined pill, they may be made ineffective by vomiting or diarrhoea.
Contraceptive hormones injected into the female body or placed surgically under the skin. These are useful for women who can’t take the combined pill or who forget to take their pills regularly. They can cause irregular bleeding.
lUDs are devices placed inside the womb as a long term method of contraception, mainly to prevent conception from occurring. Prevention of implantation is a secondary action. They can be effective for up to five years.
A barrier placed inside the vagina to prevent sperm reaching the cervix. Use it with spermicide for extra protection. They should be inserted before sex and left in place for six hours afterwards.
If you’ve had unprotected sex in the last five days, you may still be able to get emergency contraception. However, you must get to a doctor or sexual health clinic quickly. The post-coital pill (or ‘morning after’ pill) is still effective up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, but the sooner it is taken the more effective it is. It can be prescribed free by GPs or sexual health clinics, or you can buy it over the counter at certain chemists. Follow the instructions carefully, and if you have sickness or diarrhoea after taking them, speak to your doctor or the chemist to see if you need to take any more. There are other methods of emergency contraception.
Contact your GP or your nearest sexual health clinic for more information about contraception, pregnancy & STIs.
For advice go to:
81 London Rd,
Tel: 0151 207 4000
6 David Lewis Street,
Tel: 0151 247 6500
Great Charlotte St Sexual Health Service
Unit 4 Charlotte Row,
Great Charlotte St,
Tel: 0151 233 3058
1st Floor Royal Liverpool Hospital,
Tel: 0151 706 2620
For more information, support and a list of pharmacies offering free emergency contraception visit: www.sexualhealthliverpool.co.uk.