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I’m having problems with my contraception

Sometimes people might have problems with their contraception. Find out how we can help you.

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.

  • I'm having problems with my coil (Intrauterine 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 LNG-IUD ( or hormone-releasing coil). 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.

  • I can't feel my coil threads

    If you have had an IUD ( copper or hormone-releasing) 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.

  • I have a coil fitted but think I could be pregnant

    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).

  • I'm having problems following my injectable contraception

    Most people have a change in their bleeding pattern following an injection. For example:

    • lighter periods
    • irregular bleeding
    • no periods

    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.

  • I have run out of contraceptive pills – what should I do?

    If you have run out of contraceptive pills, and you do not want to be pregnant, then you can either:

    • Use a condom every time you have sex, until you can get a further supply
    • Avoid having any sexual contact.

    You may also need to think about emergency contraception if you have missed pills and have had sex. Click on the link below for more information on Emergency contraception

    Further information on Emergency Contraception

    You will be able to get more contraceptive pills from your GP or one of the Unity Sexual Health clinics.

  • I have missed my pill

    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).

    Missed POP

    If you are more than 3* or 12** hours late taking a POP ( northethisterone* or levonorgestrel* or desogestrel**) 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.


    Missed COCP

    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.

    Watch the video below for information on what to do if you miss a COCP ( video transcript here)



  • I'm having problems with my implant

    We will have asked you to keep the plaster on for a few days after the fitting.  If this comes off or gets wet, you can replace it with another sterile plaster.

    If the skin around the implant is red, sore or the wound is weeping or hot, this could suggest there is an infection. Please see your GP as you might need antibiotics.

    The implant can give temporary side effects such as:

    • mild headaches
    • breast tenderness
    • skin problems.

    We suggest you keep the implant in for at least 3 months to see if these side effects settle down. If you can’t cope with the side effects you can call your GP or Unity and discuss removal. If you are attending for removal of your implant you may wish to prepare for your appointment by completing a self-assessment.

    The implant can also cause some irregular and unpredictable bleeding which may not settle with time. You can call your GP or Unity to discuss ways of controlling the bleeding.

  • I can't feel my implant

    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.

  • I'm having problems with condoms

    If a condom comes off or breaks during sex you will need Emergency contraception. You can see us at Unity sexual health, talk to a pharmacist or go to your GP or walk in centre for advice.

    Further information on Emergency Contraception

    If this is happening often, you probably need to check that you know how to use a condom .

    There are resources and videos available to show you how to put on a condom  and how to avoid common mistakes.

    Tips when using condoms:

    • Try a different brand or shape
    • Avoid using oil-based lubricants such as vaseline and baby oil, as these can cause condoms to split or leak.
    • Check expiry date

    See our page on your other Contraceptive options.

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