Forgotten your pill or had unprotected sex? Maybe you're worried about something? Here's what to do and where to go if you need help urgently.
Click on the links listed here to go directly to the answer:
- Could I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
- I think I might be pregnant
- I've had sex without a condom
- I've been pushed into sex
- Will vomiting, diarrhoea or medication affect the way my pill works?
- I've forgotten to take my pill
Could I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
If you've had unprotected sex (without a condom), there's a chance you could have caught an STI.
Arrange to get tested if:
- you haven't got symptoms, but are worried you might have an STI
- you have symptoms, such as unusual discharge
- you have a feeling something is wrong
If you're currently having sex with someone, either stop or make sure you use a condom until you know for sure whether or not you have an STI. Your partner should get tested, too.
You can get free, confidential advice and treatment from your GP or specialist clinics in your area, even if you're under 16.
Most hospitals have special clinics called genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, which give tests and treatment for STIs. There are also lots of places that are set up especially for young people.
Most STIs can be treated easily, so don't be scared of having a test and getting a positive result.
I think I might be pregnant
The first thing to do is find out for certain by taking a pregnancy test. The sooner you do this, the better.
There are lots of places where you can have a free pregnancy test and get confidential advice, even if you're under 16, including:
- some pharmacies
- a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic
- a community contraceptive clinic
- some young people's services - call the national sexual health helpline on 0300 123 7123 for details
- Brook centres - for under-25s
- some GP surgeries
Find your nearest sexual health services.
You can also buy a pregnancy test from pharmacies or some supermarkets, which you can do yourself at home.
Find out more about doing a pregnancy test.
If you're pregnant and it's unplanned, you may be faced with a decision about whether to continue with the pregnancy or end the pregnancy by having an abortion.
The sooner an abortion is done, the easier and safer it is. But you might want to take time to make your decision. This is why it's important to know if you're pregnant as soon as possible.
Nobody needs to know you're pregnant until you're ready to tell them. You can ask to see a female doctor if that would make you feel more comfortable.
If you decide to continue with the pregnancy, start your pregnancy (antenatal) care as soon as possible. This includes health checks for you and your baby. Your GP can talk to you about this.
Find out more about antenatal care.
I've had sex without a condom
If you've had unprotected sex, there's a risk of both pregnancy and STIs. The best thing to do is act quickly. The sooner you act, the more likely it is that you can prevent a pregnancy and get treatment for an STI.
To avoid pregnancy, you can either:
- take the emergency contraceptive pill - sometimes called the morning-after pill - up to 72 hours (three days) or 120 hours (five days) after having unprotected sex, depending on the type of pill
- you can have an IUD - sometimes called a coil - fitted up to five days after unprotected sex
If your next period doesn't arrive when you expect it to, take a pregnancy test.
If you have sex without a condom or the condom splits or comes off, you're also at risk of getting an STI.
If this happens and you're worried you have caught an STI, you can get confidential help and advice in your local area, as well as free testing for STIs, at:
- a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic
- some community contraceptive clinics
- some GPs
If you're having sex, don't rely on emergency contraception to stop you getting pregnant. There are lots of contraceptive options you can choose from.
Talk to a nurse or doctor at a clinic or GP surgery about what contraception is right for you.
Condoms are the only method that can protect you from both STIs and pregnancy. Use them along with your chosen method of contraception.
Find out how to use a condom.
I've been pushed into sex
If someone has forced or persuaded you into a sexual situation you are uncomfortable with, there is help available.
You can call the national sexual health helpline free on 0300 123 7123. Your call will be treated with sensitivity and in strict confidence.
You can also contact a sexual assault referral centre (SARC), where you can get specialist support and medical care if you have been sexually assaulted.
A sexual assault can happen anywhere, including in your home, and is more likely to be done by someone you know than a stranger.
Find rape and sexual assault support services, including SARCs. You can also ask at your GP surgery, contraceptive clinic or sexual health clinic.
Find out more about what to do if you have been sexually assaulted or it has happened to someone you know.
Will medication, vomiting or diarrhoea affect my pill?
If you take it correctly, at the right time on the right day, the contraceptive pill is 99% effective. However, certain things, such as being sick, can stop it working properly. Always read the leaflet inside the packet so you know what might affect it.
Find out more about what changes could occur with the pill when you're sick or have diarrhoea.
Some medicines can prevent the pill working properly. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist to advise you on this if they're giving you any medicines.
If you have any doubt about whether your contraceptive pill is affected, use condoms while taking medication and for seven days afterwards.
If you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, it might not work properly and you'll need to use condoms as well for seven days.
If you have diarrhoea, keep taking the pill as usual. But make sure to use condoms as well while you're unwell and for seven days afterwards.
I've forgotten to take my pill
You may not be protected against pregnancy if you've forgotten to take your pill. This depends on the type you're taking, how many doses you missed already, and how many pills are left in the packet.
Keep taking the pill and see your doctor, nurse or pharmacist as soon as possible for advice. Use condoms to make sure you're still fully protected.
If you have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, you could consider using another method of contraception, such as the contraceptive implant, contraceptive injection or IUD. This means you don't have to think about your contraception every day or every time you have sex.
Find out more about the different contraceptive methods.
You can go to:
- British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) - provides advice and support on contraception, abortion and sexual health; call the helpline on 03457 30 40 30, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brook - the young people's sexual health charity for under-25s provides advice, support and information about your nearest sexual health clinic
- FPA - provides information on individual methods of contraception, STIs, pregnancy choices, abortion, and planning a pregnancy
- Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline - provides an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans (transgender, transsexual, transvestite) people; call the helpline on 0300 330 0630, open 10am to 11pm daily
- Terrence Higgins Trust - provides information, support and advice on HIV and sexual health; call the helpline on 0808 802 1221, open 10am to 8pm Monday to Friday
Article provided by NHS Choices