Contraception; your options!

Dear students, and in particular those new to the university and Bristol.

Welcome! You have picked a great city and it’s an exciting time for you all. Parties, Fresher’s week, new friends, often your first time away from home and a new course to get stuck into.

First let me introduce myself. I am Dr Tim Percival; lead GP for contraception at the Students’ Health Service (SHS). I felt it was a good time to get the message out to you all regarding your choices, what we can offer and trying to correct some of the common misconceptions regarding contraception.

We have comprehensive facilities to manage the vast majority of all contraception and sexual health issues from:-

  • Choosing the right contraception and sorting subsequent problems
  • Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s)
  • Taking cervical smears (if over 25 years)
  • Providing condoms and pregnancy tests free of charge
  • Generally helping you with any symptoms and problems ‘down below’.

We pride ourselves on being approachable and friendly, and we take confidentiality very seriously. So please just come and talk to us!

It is commonly thought that the contraceptive pill and condoms are the ‘usual and only’ options.Condoms are good protection from STIs and are a relatively safe method of contraception but ONLY IF USED CONSISTENTLY AND CORRECTLY.

The pill is a very good option too, especially for those that like good control of their periods. It is a misconception that the pill makes everyone put on weight and become very ‘hormonal’…this is unusual. It is also not a problem to continue the pill long term if you’re fit and healthy.

Longer Acting Reversible Contraceptives (or LARC’s) are becoming very popular for good reason. They give you the benefit of highly reliable contraception that is not prone to ‘user failure’ i.e. ‘had a few heavy nights and forgot my pill’! They are also statistically better at preventing pregnancy. The options are:-

  • Contraceptive implant called nexplanon,
  • Contraceptive injection or depo
  • Intrauterine devices i.e. the copper or hormone coils.

Let’s take each of these in turn and try and dispel some common misconceptions!


  • Injected into inner upper arm where can’t be seen and releases hormone slowly
  • Lasts 3 years
  • Generally a simple insertion and removal with at most mild pain from small anaesthetic injection similar to vaccination
  • Very highly effective
  • Low risk hormonal side effects


  • Injected invisibly into upper buttock and hormone released slowly
  • Lasts 3 months
  • Mild pain from injection similar to vaccination
  • Very highly effective


  • 2 types 1) copper (IUD) and 2) Mirena (Hormone IUS).
  • Copper IUD lasts 10 years, has no hormones but can make periods slightly heavier so good for any of you with lighter periods
  • Mirena IUS lasts 5 years, has very small amounts of hormone that works locally in the womb to lighten periods so good for those with heavier periods
  • Both very highly effective
  • Can be fitted even if not had children!
  • Can be fitted at Students’ Health
  • Do not make you infertile in the long term (only when device in place!!)
  • Usually mild-moderate period like cramps during fitting. Usually not significant pain during insertion as commonly believed


Please remember that none of the above methods protect you against STIs so make sure you also use a condom unless:-

  • with a regular partner,
  • AND you have both had comprehensive STI screening
  • AND you are using an alternative contraceptive method e.g. pill/coil/implant etc.

 If you do have unprotected sex then please see us ASAP for emergency contraception. If we are not open chemists, A+E departments and sexual health clinics can also supply this for you. If you do get pregnant and don’t want to be please try not to panic and see us for advice on your options.

Hope this is helpful. Look forward to meeting some of you. EnjoyBristol!

Dr Tim Percival

GP Students’ Health Service