There are lots of different methods of contraception and there is something to suit everyone.
It is important to know the difference between normal and expected side effects, and symptoms that might mean there is something wrong. When you were given the contraceptive method for the first time, you may have been given information about these issues. There is information below for each method, with advice about what you need to do.
If you have had sex but you think your contraception isn’t working you might need emergency contraception. Examples of when contraception may not work properly include:
It has not had enough time to become effective (some methods take seven days before you can start relying on them)
You have missed a pill
You have taken another medication which can stop your usual method working. St John’s Wort should not be taken with pills or the implant. (You should always inform your doctor if you are using contraception to make sure they don’t give you anything which will interfere),
You have vomited within two hours of taking your pill
You can contact Unity sexual health, talk to a pharmacist, or go to your GP or walk-in centre for advice about Emergency contraception.
After a coil fit, it is usual to experience cramps in your lower tummy. Cramps may last for a few days and sometimes for a few weeks. It is also normal to get some irregular bleeding which may last for several weeks, especially with the IUS. If the bleeding is getting lighter this can be normal.
If any of the following happen you should come and talk to us or see your GP:
Worsening pain, especially with smelly discharge or a fever
Pain during sex
Sudden pain or sudden unexpected bleeding
A missed period with the copper IUD
If you can’t feel the threads
If you think the IUC is falling out
We ask you to check your IUC threads 3 – 6 weeks after it was fitted. If you have any worries about it, you can speak to you GP or call Unity for a coil check. If you are not able to feel your threads you should not rely on your coil. Use additional precautions like condoms.
If you have had an IUS or IUD fitted you should check your threads regularly. If you cannot feel your threads you need to contact a healthcare professional for assessment. This could be your GP surgery or Unity.
If you can’t feel your threads, you can not rely on the coil for contraception so you must use another method such as condoms. If you have had sex without a condom in the last 5 days you may need emergency contraception. You should speak to a healthcare professional so that you can be assessed. You can call your GP or Unity. It may take a while for an appointment; make sure you use additional precautions while you are waiting for your appointment.
At your assessment, you may be examined to see if your threads are visible at your cervix. If your threads are seen you will be reassured and encouraged to try and feel for them again. If your threads are not seen, you may be referred for an ultra-sound scan to see if your coil is sitting in the right place. It can sometimes take a few weeks for the scan to happen so you should continue to use additional contraception while you are waiting for your appointment.
It is very unlikely that you will become pregnant if you have intra-uterine contraception fitted. However, there are some situations where this could happen:
you were already pregnant at the time the coil was fitted
the coil is not sitting in the correct place or it has fallen out ( expelled)
If you think you might be pregnant it is very important to speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible – for example the same day you find out. They will assess whether you are pregnant with a urine test. If the test is positive they may refer you for an ultrasound scan to check that the pregnancy is in the right place. This is usually done urgently to rule out an ectopic pregnancy (where the pregnancy is not developing in the womb).
Most people have a change in their bleeding pattern following an injection. For example:
Hormonal methods of contraception can also give temporary side effects, like mild headaches, breast tenderness or skin problems. These will usually settle with time.
Once you have been given the injection the hormone stays in your body for several weeks so side effects may last for up to 4 months.
You can contact your GP or call Unity on 0117 342 6900 if you have any side effects that you are not coping with. If your bleeding is not settling down you can come two weeks early for your next injection.
If you miss a pill the advice is different depending on whether you are taking the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) or the progestogen-only pill (POP).
If you are more than 3* or 12** hours late taking a POP this counts as a missed pill.
You will need to restart your POP and it will take 48 hours to become effective
*The 3 hour rule applies to POP containing levonorgestrel or norethisterone.
**The 12 hour rule applies to POP containing desogestrel.
The COCP is normally taken every day for 3 weeks and then you have 1 week off. You are protected from pregnancy during your pill-free week as long as you remember to start you pill again when it is due.
Some people take their pills in a different way after discussing it with a doctor or nurse.
Some people have ‘sugar’ or ‘placebo’ pills to take during their pill-free week instead of having a break.
You should take your pill at the same time every day. You are allowed to miss one pill anywhere in your pack or start the new pack one day late and still have contraceptive cover.
However if you miss more than one pill you will need to follow the “missed pill rules” to reduce your chance of falling pregnant:
Take the last pill you missed now. If you have missed more than one, only take one.
Take your next pill at the usual time. This may mean taking two pills in one day. This is not harmful.
Use an additional method of contraception, such as condoms, for the next 7 days, as the pill will not be working in this time
If you have unprotected sex during this time you might need emergency contraception. It is important that you get advice as quickly as possible.
If there are 7 or more pills left in the pack after the missed pill
Finish the pack
Have the usual seven day break or take the placebo tablets.
If there are fewer than 7 pills left in the pack after the missed pill:
Finish the pack
Do NOT have your usual seven day break or seven placebo pills. Instead start the next pill packet the next day.
If you have had an implant fitted but cannot feel it properly in your arm it is important that you do not rely on it for contraception. If you have had sex without a condom in the last 5 days you may need to think about emergency contraception. You should speak to a healthcare professional. They may want to examine your arm and if necessary refer you on to a specialist clinic at Unity.