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 contraception, STIs and what you should do if you have unprotected sex.

Contraception Options

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

If you had any sex education at school, chances are you were taught about condoms. But, as a reminder, they are the only type of contraception that can both 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 instore. If you’re going out, and 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 probably one method of contraception you’ve considered if you’re looking to help prevent pregnancy. It is taken at the same time every day for 21 days, with a break for seven days for a period-type bleed. At the end of the seven days you resume taking the pill again.

When it’s taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective1. It contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and stops your body from releasing an egg each month. It also makes it difficult for the sperm to reach an egg, and any 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 might also want to consider the Progesterone Only Pill, as it’s also a contraceptive pill that can prevent unwanted pregnancies but they don’t contain oestrogen.

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.

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.

Morning After Pill:

If you’ve had unprotected sex, or are concerned your usual contraception might not have worked, in the last 3 or 5 days you might be worried about pregnancy. If this is the case, 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, or through our Online Doctor Service. Remember if you’re ordering it online, you need to make sure you have enough time to receive the tablet and take it.

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.

STIs

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 and 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 Lloyds Pharmacy here.