The most common contraceptives used by young people are the pill and condoms.

Condoms are the only form of contraceptive that offer protection against most STIs.


  • Contraceptives are used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or an STI.

  • There is no 100% safe and effective method of contraception.

  • It is important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each method and find the one that meets your particular needs.

  • Consider asking your parents/teachers/Sexual Health Centre for advice on contraception before entering a relationship.

  • You can also go to your GP or Family Planning Clinic where you can get professional advice on the method that would suit you best.


The Sexual Health Centre offers FREE condoms and lubrication to anyone over the age of 16.

Our trained staff will provide a free condom demonstration so you can be certain that you are using condoms correctly.


  • Male condoms help prevent sperm from being released into the vagina or back passage during anal sex

  • They are considered to be 98% effective against pregnancy when properly used

  • They help protect against most STIs

  • Condoms can be purchased over the counter from chemists or supermarkets

  • Never use two condoms together as this will cause friction and make the condoms tear/break. Using one condom correctly and safely every time is all that is required

  • Don’t use flavoured condoms for penetrative intercourse, as some of their ingredients can cause issues in the vaginal area. They are to be used in oral sex only

Important to Know

  • Check the condom has not passed its sell-by date – Yes, condoms can go off! 

  • Make sure that the condom you are using has a safety mark e.g. CE on the foil packaging

  • Keep your condoms away from heat, light and damp as these can damage them. Carry them in your wallet or bag

  • You should only use one condom at a time and they can’t be re-used

How to Use a Condom

  1. Open the packet carefully in the middle and watch out for nails, jewelry etc. as they can tear a condom easily

  2. If you need lubricant use something that is water-based (you can buy these at a chemist). Do not use any oils e.g. baby oil, butter, etc as these rot the condom really quickly and will mean that it won’t protect you

  3. Wait for the penis to go hard. With one hand, squeeze the tip of the condom with your thumb and finger to get rid of all the air at the tip. Put the condom on the penis with the other hand and roll it all the way down. Be sure to put it on with the roll on the outside

  4. Withdraw the penis straightaway after you’ve come. Hold the condom firmly at the base to stop any leaks

  5. Knot the base of the condom, wrap it in a tissue and throw it in the bin. Do not throw it down the toilet, as condoms won’t flush!

  6. If you’ve never used a condom before, practice by yourself first. Girls can practice on a cucumber or banana

Withdrawal is NOT a form of protection. Some people think that if you have sexual intercourse and the man withdraws from the woman before he ejaculates (cums) or if you do it standing up you will not get pregnant. This is NOT TRUE! Often fluid containing sperm (precum) comes out of the top of the penis before the ejaculation and this can cause pregnancy (and STIs).

Young adults aged 16/17 will be required to have a condom demonstration the first time they come into the centre. Once they have gone through the demonstration, they will be issued with a card with a number stamped on it, so that the staff at the centre are informed that the young person has had a demonstration and do not need to be shown again (unless requested by the individual themselves). Condoms will then be issued to the young person next time they come into avail of the service, they only have to show the receptionist their card.

The Pill


  • The pill is prescribed to a woman by her doctor

  • It works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation)

  • It must always be taken as prescribed

  • If you have been vomiting, are taking antibiotics, or forgot to take the pill you may not be protected – it may be best to check with your doctor

  • When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy

  • The pill does not provide any protection against STIs

Important considerations

It’s best to avoid the pill if you:

  • are pregnant

  • smoke and are 35 or older

  • stopped smoking less than a year ago and are 35 or older

  • are very overweight

  • take certain medicines (ask your GP about this)

You should also not take the pill if you have (or have had):

  • thrombosis (a blood clot)

  • a heart abnormality or heart disease, including high blood pressure

  • severe migraines, especially with aura

  • breast cancer

  • disease of the gallbladder or liver

  • diabetes with complications or diabetes for the last 20 years

Consult your GP for more information.

Contraceptive Injections


  • The contraceptive injection releases the hormone progestogen into a woman’s bloodstream to prevent pregnancy

  • Each injection lasts for 8 – 13 weeks

  • Contraceptive injections do not provide protection against STIs

How does it work?

The hormone is injected into a muscle, usually during the first five days of a period, and is released very slowly into the body. Further injections are needed every 8-12 weeks. Discuss with your GP the best time to have your first injection.

Important to know

  • If used correctly, the injections are over 99% effective

  • As it lasts for up to 13 weeks you don’t have to think about contraception in terms of preventing an unwanted pregnancy every day like you would with a pill

  • You do have to remember to repeat the injection before it expires or becomes ineffective

  • This method of contraception can only be given by a doctor or a nurse. It is available on the GMS (Medical Card Scheme)



  • Femidoms are female condoms that act as a barrier to pregnancy and STIs like HIV

  • It’s placed inside the vagina and is an alternative to the male condom

  • If used correctly, female condoms are 95% effective

Important to know

  • A female condom needs to be placed inside the vagina before there’s any contact with the penis

  • Femidoms can be inserted several hours before sex

  • A female condom can get pushed too far into the vagina, but it’s easy to remove them yourself if this happens

  • Female condoms shouldn’t be reused – open a new one each time you have sex

How to use a female condom:

  1. Open the packet and remove the female condom, taking care not to tear it – don’t open the packet with your teeth

  2. Find a comfortable position for inserting the condom – either sitting or lying down, squatting or with one leg raised on a chair

  3. The condom is already lubricated but you may want to add additional lubricant

  4. Squeeze the inner ring between thumb and finger so that it becomes long and narrow, making it easier to insert

  5. Holding the inner ring between your fingers, insert the condom as deep into the vagina as it will go

  6. Push your middle finger into the Femidom and push the inner ring as far up your vagina as you can – it should be just above your pubic bone.

  7. Keep the second, outer ring outside the opening of the vagina

  8. During sex, guide the penis in through the outer ring, making sure the penis hasn’t missed the opening of the condom and entered the vagina at the side of the ring

  9. After sex, remove the female condom immediately by gently pulling it out – you can twist the large ring to prevent semen from leaking

  10. Throw away the condom in a bin, not the toilet

The Diaphragm (Cap)


  • A contraceptive diaphragm or cap is a circular dome made of thin, soft silicone that’s inserted into the vagina before sex

  • When used correctly with spermicide, a diaphragm or cap is 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy

  • It can take time to learn how to use it

  • The diaphragm does not provide protection against STIs

Important to know

  • You can put in a diaphragm or cap with spermicide any time before you have sex

  • To be effective, diaphragms and caps need to be used with a spermicide. Spermicides are chemicals that kill sperm

  • More spermicide is needed if it’s been in place for more than 3 hours

  • The diaphragm or cap needs to be left in place for at least 6 hours after sex

  • Some women develop cystitis (a bladder infection) when they use a diaphragm or cap. Your doctor or nurse can check the size – switching to a smaller size may help

How to Insert a Diaphragm

  1. With clean hands, put two 2 cm strips of spermicide on the upper side of the diaphragm

  2. Put your index finger on top of the diaphragm and squeeze it between your thumb and other fingers

  3. Slide the diaphragm into your vagina, upwards – this should ensure that the diaphragm covers your cervix

  4. Always check that your cervix is covered – it feels like a lump, a bit like the end of your nose

  5. If your cervix isn’t covered, take the diaphragm out by hooking your finger under the rim or loop (if there is one) and pulling downwards, then try again

How to Insert a Cap

  1. With clean hands, fill one-third of the cap with spermicide, but don’t put any spermicide around the rim as this will stop the cap staying in place

  2. The cap has a groove between the dome and the rim – place some spermicide in this groove

  3. Squeeze the sides of the cap together and hold it between your thumb and first two fingers

  4. Slide the cap into your vagina, upwards

  5. The cap must fit neatly over your cervix – it stays in place by suction

  6. Depending on your type of cap, you may need to add extra spermicide after it’s been put in

The Intrauterine Device (IUD)


  • An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse

  • It releases copper to stop you getting pregnant and protects against pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years. It’s sometimes called a “coil” or “copper coil”

  • When inserted correctly, IUDs are more than 99% effective

  • An IUD works as soon as it’s put in and lasts for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type

  • It doesn’t protect against STIS, so you need to use condoms as well

Important to know

  • It can be put in at any time during your menstrual cycle, as long as you’re not pregnant

  • It can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It’s then possible to get pregnant straight away

  • Your periods can be heavier, longer or more painful in the first 3 to 6 months after an IUD is put in. You might get spotting or bleeding between periods

  • There’s a small risk of getting an infection after it’s been fitted

  • There’s a small risk that your body may push out the IUD or it may move – your doctor or nurse will teach you how to check it’s in place

  • Having an IUD fitted can be uncomfortable, but you can have a local anesthetic to help. Discuss this with your GP beforehand

How It Works

  • Before your IUD is fitted, a GP or nurse will check inside your vagina to check the position and size of your womb. You may be tested for any existing infections, such as STIs, and be given antibiotics

  • The appointment takes about 20 to 30 minutes, and fitting the IUD should take no longer than 5 minutes

  • The vagina is held open, like it is during a smear test (cervical screening)

  • The IUD is inserted through the cervix and into the womb

  • Once an IUD has been fitted, it’ll need to be checked by a GP after 3 to 6 weeks to make sure everything is fine. Tell the GP if you have any problems after this initial check or if you want the IUD removed

The Vaginal Ring


  • The vaginal ring is a small soft, plastic ring that you place inside your vagina once a month

  • It releases a continuous dose of the hormones oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy

  • If used correctly, the vaginal ring is more than 99% effective

  • The vaginal ring does not provide protection against STIs

Important to know

  • One ring provides contraception for a month, so you don’t have to think about it every day

  • You can continue to have sex when the ring is in place

  • Unlike the pill, the ring still works if you have sickness (vomiting) or diarrhoea

  • Unlike a diaphragm or cap, the ring doesn’t need to cover the entrance to your womb (the cervix) to work

  • The ring may ease premenstrual symptoms, and bleeding will probably be lighter and less painful

  • The ring can sometimes come out on its own, but you can rinse it in warm water and put it back in as soon as possible

  • The ring can’t get “lost” inside you

How to Insert the Ring

  • With clean hands, squeeze the ring between your thumb and finger, and gently insert the tip into your vagina

  • Gently push the ring up into your vagina until it feels comfortable

  • You should be able to check that the ring is still there using your fingers. If you can’t feel it but you’re sure it’s there, see a GP or nurse



  • The contraceptive implant is a small flexible plastic rod that’s placed under the skin in your upper arm by a doctor or nurse

  • It releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy and lasts for up to 3 years

  • The implant is more than 99% effective

  • It doesn’t protect against STIs, so you need to use condoms as well

Important to know

  • It can be useful for women who can’t use contraception that contains oestrogen

  • The implant can be taken out if you have side effects

  • You can have it removed at any time, and your natural fertility will return very quickly

  • Some medicines can make the implant less effective

  • Visit a family planning clinic or GP practice where there is a trained doctor or nurse who can insert the implant.  The implant is available on a medical card



  • This is a thin, beige patch about the size of a matchbox, which can be applied to any part of the body except the breasts

  • There is only one patch available at this time it is called the Evra Patch

  • With perfect use, the patch is over 99% effective

  • They are used for three of the four weeks of the cycle and changed weekly

  • Patches do not provide protection against STIs

Important to know

  • You can wear it in the bath, when swimming, and while playing sports

  • Pregnancy can happen if an error is made in using the patch — especially if it becomes loose or falls off for more than 24 hours or the same patch is left on the skin for more than one week

  • This method of contraception requires a prescription from your family doctor or family planning centre. It is available on the GMS (Medical Card Scheme)

How to Use the Patch

  • Apply your first patch and wear it for 7 days. On day 8, change the patch to a new one. Change it like this every week for 3 weeks, and then have a patch-free week

  • During your patch-free week you’ll get a withdrawal bleed, like a period, although this may not always happen

  • After 7 patch-free days, apply a new patch and start the 4-week cycle again. Start your new cycle even if you’re still bleeding

Emergency Contraceptive Pills


  • The emergency contraceptive pill (“morning after pill”) is a pill that you can take after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy

  • The pills are available directly from a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription to women over 17 years of age

  • Since July 2017 the emergency contraception service has been available free of charge to medical card holders

  • Emergency contraceptive pills do not provide protection against STIs

Important to know

  • You must take it within 72 hours of unprotected sex

  • The earlier you take it within the 72 hours, the more effective it will be

  • If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the emergency pill, return to the doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible for a second dose or other advice

  • Taking different kinds of the emergency pill during the same cycle is not recommended as they work in different ways. If you need a second dose during your cycle, you must use the same emergency pill as your first dosage

  • Use other methods of contraception after taking the emergency contraception pill as it does not provide contraception for the remainder of your cycle. In fact, if ovulation is only delayed, you could well be fertile in the following weeks

  • Be aware that there is a small risk of failure and you may still become pregnant

  • Emergency contraception is for emergencies only and is not a substitute for contraception

An emergency contraceptive pill might not be for you, if:

  • Too much time has passed for the medicine to be effective

  • You are taking other medicines that interact with emergency contraception

  • You have an existing medical condition that means it is not safe to take emergency contraception

  • Your last period was irregular in some way

Natural Family Planning


  • Natural family planning is a form of birth control where natural signs, such as body temperature, are used to identify when a woman is at her least and most fertile during each menstrual cycle

  • It is helpful to be trained by an expert in this method as it can be difficult to monitor

  • Natural Family Planning can be difficult for young people as it relies very much on having a regular menstrual cycle

  • This method doesn’t protect from STIs

How it works

The Calendar Method

  • Record the first day of every period (day one of each menstrual cycle) for six months

  • Work out the length of each menstrual cycle during those six months. This is the number of days from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period (normally about 28 days)

  • Take the length of your shortest cycle and the length of your longest cycle

  • Subtract 18 days from the length of your shortest cycle – this is the first day of your fertile period

  • Subtract 11 days from your longest cycle – this is the last day of your fertile period

  • Do not have sex from the first day to the last day of your fertile period

The Temperature Method

  • Every morning, take your temperature (using a thermometer) after waking, before you get out of bed. Try and take it the same time each morning. Keep a record of these readings

  • After six readings, work out your average body temperature (add the measurements and divide by six)

  • When you take three temperatures in a row that are all higher than your average, ovulation has taken place

  • From the third day of increased temperature (the third day after ovulation), you will have entered an infertile phase because it is unlikely that your egg will be fertilised. You will be protected against pregnancy from this time until your next fertile period

  • However, various factors can upset your body temperature, such as illness or some medications

The Mucus Method

  • Every morning, use your finger to take a sample of the secretion coming out of your vagina

  • Press the sample against your thumb and slowly separate your thumb and finger, to test the consistency

  • If it seems clear and stringy, like egg white, you are about to ovulate

  • You will enter an infertile phase from four days after this point (when there is no longer lots of clear mucus), which lasts until your next fertile period

  • However, if you have recently had sex or are sexually aroused, the consistency of your secretion will be affected. A vaginal infection such as thrush will also affect your secretion. Therefore this is not a particularly effective method of contraception when used alone. For more information, speak to your GP or nurse

If you require our support or more information, don’t hesitate to ring our Helpline on 021 427 66 76 or drop-in!