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Contraception

Many students arrive in Cambridge with no sexual experience at all, and many will spend their entire university careers not having sexual relations. Whether for religious reasons, personal choice or the outcome of circumstance, this is as valid an expression of sexuality as any other. Sex can encompass a whole range of sexual activities: if you do have sex, it is important that you decide what you want to do, with whom and when. Whatever you choose make sure it's safe for yourself and your partner. Most sexually active students make the decision that their lifestyle, finances, accommodation or relationships are not ideally suited to having children. Yet heterosexual sex carries with it the possibility of conception. Even before ejaculation, the erect penis can release some sperm, so it's not safe to have the aroused penis close to the vagina without using proper contraception. There is no perfect contraceptive method, and making a choice can be difficult. The decision involves balancing convenience and safety in a way that is acceptable to you and your partner, so it's important to make an informed choice. It may be helpful to consider the availability, reliability and cost of different methods. The FPA (Family Planning Association) has an excellent website which you can see at www.fpa.org.uk which gives up-to-date information on new forms of contraception.


Reliability
Effectiveness, is usually a prime consideration when selecting a contraceptive method. No contraceptive is 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. However, when used according to their instructions, some come very close. The majority of contraceptives listed on the next few pages are very reliable. However, it's well worth considering that the effectiveness of any contraception can decrease considerably if a method is not used correctly. For example, some progesterone only pills taken only three hours late can offer little or no protection, whilst a damaged condom is more likely to rupture.

Side Effects
It is important to be fully aware of the potential side effects of different methods. Many hormone-based methods, by altering the body's natural hormone balance, can cause side effects and may not be suitable for certain people. Age and general health are important factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing contraception so it's important for your doctor to be aware of your full medical history.

Protection from STIs
Only physical barrier methods – condoms and femidoms (female condoms) – can help protect against STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) including HIV. STIs can be transmitted between partners by fluids as well as skin to skin contact and it is possible to have an asymptomatic STI which you may not be aware of. Even within a long-term relationship you should consider having a sexual health 'check up' at The Laurels (the Sexual Health Clinic at 20 Newmarket Road) if you are going to have sex without using a condom or femidom. It is also vital to consider the risks of STIs associated with sexual practices other than vaginal penetration. Remember that unprotected anal sex presents an increased danger of HIV infection. If you and your partner wish to experiment, it's important to use a condom and a water-based lubricant to prevent the condom from splitting. Oral sex, although lower risk than penetrative sex, still needs a barrier method to protect you from STIs. Condoms come in a range of different flavours. Dental dams, still seen as confusing by the majority of men and women (if they've ever heard of them!), are the only way to guarantee safe oral sex on women. A dental dam is a snazzy bit of latex which also comes in a variety of colours and flavours. They can sometimes be difficult to get hold of, though they are stocked by CUSU.

Cost and Availability
Some contraceptives (e.g. the pill, diaphragm and cap) are available only through your GP or family planning clinic. Others can be bought over the counter from a chemist. CUSU sells condoms, femidoms, dental dams, lubricant and latex gloves very cheaply. They also give out free Chlamydia postal testing packs. You can drop into reception to pick them up or contact the CUSU Student Support Officer.

Many JCRs and MCRs also sell condoms cheaply or provide them for free – contact your college Welfare Officer for information. Beyond the university, condoms are supplied free of charge by the FPA (Family Planning Association), Sexual Health Clinics and some GPs.
Using condoms
Condoms are one of the most widely used contraceptives amongst the 18-30 age group and, when used appropriately, can be very effective. To protect yourself and others against STIs it's a good idea to carry a condom with you if you think you might have sex. Below are a few points you might like to consider:
Expiry Date – Although they have a long shelf life, it is important to check the use by date stamped on the wrapper. You should also ensure that there is a BSI Standard Kitemark or CE quality stamp on the condom.
Allergies – If you are allergic to latex, you can buy non-latex condoms, which are hypo-allergenic and not made of latex from CUSU
Novelty condoms – Although amusing, if there is no Kitemark assume the condoms will not protect against STIs or pregnancy.

Lubricant – Condoms are easily damaged by oil-based lubricants which degrade the latex and increase the likelihood of rupture. Instead, water-based lubricants such as KY Jelly should be used.
After intercourse – Withdraw the penis immediately after ejaculation, ensuring that the condom does not slip off and release its semen.

Information about types of contraception can be found here:

A-to-Z of Contraception

Emergency Contraception