If you’re heading off to university then it’s likely you’ll be thinking about contraception. With new people to meet and plenty of new experiences to enjoy, not knowing what’s ahead means that you should be prepared whatever happens. Getting sensible about contraception can help you avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancy, allowing you to enjoy your time at university worry free. There are plenty of options available to you, and your GP or local family planning clinic will be happy to discuss them in more detail.


Where to get contraception

Contraception is more widely available than you might have thought. Your GP is a good first port of call, particularly if you’re looking for longer term contraception, but if you don’t feel comfortable going to your family doctor about this, there are other options available to you. Local family planning clinics will be able to offer you a range of contraception options, and are also great for getting emergency contraception as well. If it’s just condoms you’re looking for, your local pharmacy will stock plenty whilst most universities offer free condoms at their student unions.


Types of contraception available

There are many types of contraception available, most of which can be obtained by students free on the NHS and range from short term options to longer term options. Some of the most popular methods of contraception include:

  • Condoms
  • The Contraceptive Pill (either combined or progestogen only, aka ‘the mini-pill’)
  • The Contraceptive Implant
  • The Contraceptive Injection
  • The Contraceptive Patch
  • Diaphragms
  • IUD

There are options available which are hormonal and non-hormonal, and your doctor will be able to help you to assess the best option for your needs. Whilst the pill is a common form of contraception for female students, there are other options available which you may wish to consider, and may be a better option for you with your new hectic student lifestyle.

Condoms offer the best protection against STDs, and are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. Some women like to use both condoms and a form of hormonal contraception to protect against both STDs and unwanted pregnancy.


Emergency contraception

If you fail to use contraception or it fails for some reason (for example if you missed a pill or the condom broke), there is emergency contraception available which could help you prevent pregnancy if you act quickly enough. There are two types of emergency contraception:

The Morning-After Pill

There are now two kinds of morning after pill, which are most effective when taken as soon as possible. Levonelle must be taken within 72 hours (or three days) of unprotected sex to be effective (with the effectiveness rate becoming lower each day) and ellaOne, which can be taken up to 120 hours (or five days) after unprotected sex. The pills work by either preventing or delaying ovulation and can be obtained from your doctor of a family planning clinic, or bought in a pharmacy.


The IUD (Intrauterine Device) can be inserted by a doctor or nurse up to 5 days after unprotected sex. It works by stopping an egg being implanted in the uterus and can continue to be used as contraception for up to 6 years, making it an effective long term option.


Why contraception is important

A 2012 survey by student website Student Beans found that nearly two-thirds of students (66%), had had unprotected sex, meaning many are risking catching an STI. STIs such as chlamydia can have a lasting effect on fertility, whilst others such as HIV could also have long term, devastating consequences. It’s important to use contraception as well as to get tested regularly for STDs to ensure that you can get the treatment you need should you need it.

Practicing safe sex is important, and will mean that you can enjoy your university life without worrying about pregnancy and STDs. Be sensible and take a look at the NHS Choices’ dedicated page to safe student sex, making sure it’s the first thing you study before term starts.