The ultimate guide to contraceptive options for women The ultimate guide to contraceptive options for women

Finding the best method of birth control has more to do with personal preference than the availability of options. There are several forms of contraception available to women in 2023, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

To help you decide which one is right for you, Pharmacy Planet has put together this guide outlining the most used forms of birth control.

How Does Contraception Work?

At the basic level, contraception works by preventing pregnancy. How it does this depends on the type being used. Some block sperm from being able to reach the womb while others work by adjusting your menstrual cycle to make pregnancy less likely. Others can be used in emergency situations after unprotected sex.

Types of contraception

When it comes to contraception, women have a wide range of options to choose from, each offering different levels of effectiveness, convenience, and suitability. In this section, we will explore the various methods of contraception available to women, highlighting their key features, benefits, and considerations. It is important to note that choosing the right contraceptive method is a personal decision that should be made with a doctor, taking into account individual preferences, lifestyle and medical history:

  1. Barrier Methods
  2. Spermicides
  3. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
  4. Emergency Contraception
  5. Hormonal Birth Control

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods are convenient, easy to use, and widely available. The most common type of barrier method is the male condom, but there are also diaphragms and the female condom.

Male condoms are often the more preferred method because of their ease of use but also due to their ability to prevent several types of STI’s. Most condoms are male of latex, non-latex plastic, or lambskin. They are designed to cover the penis and work by holding semen and blocking genitals from direct contact.

Diaphragms, or cervical caps, are small domes made of silicone that are inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse to block sperm from reaching the uterus. Diaphragms aren’t as commonly used anymore, with many women opting for more modern methods of female contraception. They won’t protect against STI’s.

Female condoms are internal condoms used inside the vagina that work similarly to male condoms. They are made of thin, soft polyurethane and are worn inside the vagina to block semen from getting to the womb. Female condoms are up to 95% effective against pregnancy and provide protection against STI’s.


Spermicide contains active ingredients designed to stop sperm from reaching an egg for fertilisation. Available as creams, gels, lubes, foams, and suppositories, spermicides need to be applied deep into the vagina near the cervix. Alone, they aren’t as effective as other contraceptives, so they are usually used as a secondary method of birth control. Some condoms come with spermicide on them.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

An IUD is a tiny, flexible device that is put in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Inserted by a healthcare professional, an IUD one of the most effective and longest lasting forms of birth control. It can last for up to 10 years and is able to be removed at any time if you’re ready to become pregnant.

IUDs are made of copper, a substance that changes the cervical mucus. This results in a hostile environment for sperm, preventing sperm being able to survive long enough to reach an egg and fertilise it.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is a type of birth control used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex. It isn’t a long-term form of contraception and should only be used when your regular form of birth control has failed, or you’ve had unprotected sex and don’t want to become pregnant.

Emergency contraception like the ‘morning after pill’ needs to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex for it to be effective. Side effects of the morning after pill include nausea, stomach upset, and temporary changes to your period.

It’s worth noting that an IUD can act as a form of emergency contraception with the added benefit of being able to be left in as your regular birth control.

Hormonal Birth Control

Birth control pills might be what comes to mind when you think of birth control medications. In addition to the commonly used birth control pill, you can use hormonal birth control that comes as a patch, a ring, and even as an implant.

Hormonal contraceptives use synthetic versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progestin to prevent your uterus from releasing an egg (ovulation). Sperm needs an egg to fertilise for you to become pregnant. Additionally, these hormonals thicken the cervical lining, making it difficult for sperm to reach the cervix. Unlike barrier methods, hormonal contraceptive has the potential for side effects. You may need to try more than one before finding a method that works for you.

  • Birth control pills: Birth control pills can contain both oestrogen and progestin or come as progestin-only. Progestin only birth control pills are sometimes recommended for women who smoke, are over the age of 35, have high blood pressure, or have a history of blood clots and migraines. For them to be effective, you need to take them around the same time each day.
  • Birth control patches: These are small sticky patches that you place on the skin that gradually release oestrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. Birth control patches are worn in a cycle. Wear the first one for 7 days and on day 8 replace it with a new one. Continue this pattern for 3 weeks, then have a patch-free week before putting a new one on.
  • Birth control rings: The vaginal contraceptive ring is a small, flexible ring you place inside your vagina. It releases oestrogen and progestogen directly into your blood stream to prevent ovulation. It’s worn for 21 days straight before being taken out for 7 days. Insert a new one at the end of your ring-free week.
  • Birth control implants: Like an IUD, a birth control implant is a long-term form of birth control. It’s a small, flexible rod of plastic that’s inserted under the skin in your upper arm. It releases a steady dose of progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years. Contraceptive implants need to be placed and removed by a doctor or nurse.

Buying Birth Control Online in the UK

All the best methods of contraception can be bought online through Pharmacy Planet. We are here to support you with your sexual health needs and can assist you with family planning.

If you need help finding out the best contraception methods, you can take our short online assessment. Once the consultation is complete, we can help you pick the most suited method of contraception. Browse through our website to find out more about what we offer.