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Your guide to safe sex

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We all know we should be having safe sex, but what exactly does that mean – and what should you do if things don’t go according to plan.

We’ve put together our guide to safe sex, covering everything from the A-Z of contraception, STIs and what you should do if you have unprotected sex.

What contraception is right for me?

When looking at contraception, there are many options available. From condoms and the pill, to the contraceptive implant or an IUD, it’s best to consider which option is right for you and what you need from contraception.

Remember, the only way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom every time you have sex; the other methods of contraception available are to prevent unwanted pregnancies and will not protect you against STIs.


Condoms are the only type of contraception that can protect against STIs and help prevent pregnancy. You can get male and female condoms, depending on your preference. Male condoms are usually made from very thin latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane.

We have a range of condoms available online or in store. If there’s a possibility you might be having sex it’s always best to have a condom with you, that way you know you’ll be protected from STIs.

Contraceptive pill-combined oral contraceptive

The contraceptive pill, commonly known as ‘the pill’ is taken at the same time every day for 21 days or 28 days depending on the type of combined oral contraceptive.

When it’s taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective. It contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone it:

  • Stops your body from releasing an egg each month
  • Makes it difficult for the sperm to reach an egg
  • Makes it hard for a fertilised egg to implant itself on the wall of your womb

If you’re considering taking the pill, read our guide on the side effects, to make sure you’re comfortable before you start taking it, if you’re worried you can speak to one of our pharmacists, a Nurse or your GP.

You may also wish to consider the progestogen-only pill, as it’s also a contraceptive pill that can prevent unwanted pregnancies but they don’t contain oestrogen. Hana and Lovima are progestogen-only pills that are now available without a prescription. Taken orally, these daily contraceptives can be ordered online and bought in your local pharmacy. One of our pharmacists will make sure your chosen pill is safe for you to take.

IUD (Intrauterine device)

If you’re looking for a contraceptive method that doesn’t use hormones, then you might want to consider an IUD. It is a small, T-shaped plastic or copper device that is inserted into your womb by a doctor or nurse. It works by releasing copper to help stop you getting pregnant and can protect against pregnancy for between 5 to 10 years depending on the type you get fitted.

As soon as an IUD is fitted, it starts to work and it can be fitted at any time during your menstrual cycle. It can also be removed at any time by a trained doctor or nurse if you’re not finding it suitable for you, or you want to start a family.

If you think an IUD might be the right contraception for you, we’ve answered some of the most common questions on IUDs.

IUS (Intrauterine system)

The hormonal coil or IUS (Intrauterine system) is a hormonal contraception, fitted like the IUD into the womb by a healthcare professional. It works by releasing progestogen into the womb It can be fitted at any time of your cycle and can provide protection against pregnancy for up to 5 years.

It can be up to 99% effective and can be taken out at any time by a trained professional. It can make your periods lighter, shorter or stop altogether so may be suitable for people who have heavy or painful periods.

The contraceptive implant

Like the IUS the contraceptive implant releases the hormone progesterone.  It is fitted into the upper arm. It works for up to 3 years. 

The contraceptive injection

The injection can be up to 99% effective if used correctly and can last between 8 and 13 weeks.  It steadily releases the progesterone hormone into your bloodstream which prevents ovulation every month. It's common to have the injections in your bottom, but you can also have them in your upper arm.

There are a variety of contraception options available for you, and it’s important you find the one that works for you. To help, we’ve put together a guide for the contraceptives available to women.

What to do if you've had unprotected sex

Even with the best intentions, we can't be prepared for everything.  If you've had unprotected sex, or had issues with the condom you're using, we can help.

The morning after pill

If you’ve had unprotected sex or are concerned that your usual contraception might not have worked, you might need emergency contraception (also known as the morning after pill). You can get the morning after pill in your local LloydsPharmacy, where you can get advice and support and have someone to talk to if you need it.

You can also get it online through our Online Doctor Service. Remember if you’re ordering it online, you need to make sure you have enough time to go and collect the prescription and take it as different morning after pills work within different time frames.

If you’re looking for more information about the morning after pill, including who can use it and whether you’re suitable. Here’s our guide on the morning after pill.


Many STIs don’t have obvious symptoms, and using a condom is the only way to protect against STIs. They can be passed from one person to another through any sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex, and from men to women, from women to women and men to men.

So, if you’ve had unprotected sex recently, it’s best to get tested even if you feel fine. It can help put your mind at ease, and the earlier you get tested the sooner treatment can be given if it’s needed. Our Online Doctor Service offers discreet and confidential advice, tests, and treatments for a range of STIs.

We understand that talking about your sexual health isn’t always easy, that’s why our healthcare team is there for you, they can talk to you about contraception, the morning after pill and STIs.

Find your local LloydsPharmacy