Asking your GP for contraception – the best way to discuss your options

by Hatty Wilmoth · Aug 8, 2021

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Reviewed by Dr. Melanie Davis-Hall on Aug 8, 2021

GP appointment
When asking your GP for contraception it can often be a great idea to come prepared with questions to ask and information on which contraceptives you want to explore.

Whilst your GP should explore your medical history and help you choose a contraceptive option that is a best fit with your health, family medical history and lifestyle, it is always beneficial to understand what your options are. Our contraception pages and contraceptive articles give a detailed look at all types of contraceptives you can ask your GP for, whilst also giving further insights such as ‘what to expect at your coil fitting’ or ‘can your contraceptive affect your mood’.

Throughout this article, we take a look at everything you need to know when discussing contraception with your GP. 

If you are looking to explore your contraceptive options with a GP, then here at The Lowdown we offer a contraceptive consultation service with two of our in-house GPs. Our Dr. Fran and Dr. Mel have packets of experience in contraception and women’s health and can provide a virtual 20 minute appointment at a convenient time that suits you to discuss your contraceptive options.  

Alternatively, you can take our contraception quiz to be recommended the best contraception for you specifically. You can also use the contraception comparison, to compare every method of contraception, in helping you choose which will be most effective for you. 

Talk to one of our friendly doctors

How do I talk to my doctor about contraception?

When talking to your GP about birth control it can be helpful to research your options prior to the appointment. Whilst your GP can talk you through each contraception type and will assess what is right for your lifestyle, your medical history and your personal preference, we’d recommend looking at each of our contraception pages such as the copper coil, hormonal coil or combined pill plus our contraception reviews to help inform you before you have your appointment. If you would prefer to speak to a female doctor for your consultation, then request this at the time of booking.   

At The Lowdown we offer a contraceptive consultation where you can book in time to discuss your contraception options. If you decide you want to try a contraceptive pill you can access this for free via the NHS or you can order your contraceptive pill directly through The Lowdown site.  

What questions to ask your GP about contraception?

Whilst your GP should run through all aspects of each contraceptive, you may find it helpful to come prepared with a list of questions to ask them. If you are interested in finding out more about a particular contraceptive before speaking with your GP, then read our contraceptive articles where we cover all the facts you need to know. Below are some questions you may want to ask your GP about each contraception option. 

  • How effective is this method?
  • How long does it last? 
  • How regularly does it need to be taken/changed?
  • Can I use this method with my medical history or family history? 
  • What side effects might I experience? 
  • How will it affect my periods?
  • Are there any risks associated with this method?
  • Will the contraception affect my weight/skin/moods?
  • How soon after starting will you be protected from pregnancy?
  • Are there any types of medication that may make it less effective?
  • How soon after stopping the contraception could I get pregnant?

Can a GP refuse to prescribe my normal contraception?

Yes, a GP can refuse to prescribe your normal contraception if they consider there to be risks involved.  You may have had changes in your lifestyle or health which will determine whether a particular contraceptive would now place you more at risk. In the 6 weeks after having a baby, the risk of having a blood clot in your legs or lungs is increased. As the combined pill may slightly increase your risk of blood clots, an alternative method should be considered during this time.  If you have taken up smoking since starting your contraception and you are over the age of 35, then combined hormonal contraception could be refused by your GP. 

Do you see a doctor or nurse about contraception?

You can see either a doctor or nurse about your contraception choices. Most GP practices will offer nurse clinics where you can discuss your contraception with a nurse and also if it is straightforward to get a renewal of your current contraceptive. The GP practice may however ask you to see a doctor.

Can I get emergency contraception from my GP?

Yes, your GP or sexual health clinic can supply emergency contraception. If you require emergency contraception then it is important to contact your GP or sexual health clinic as soon as possible to get an appointment as you only have a small window in which to use it to prevent pregnancy. Levonelle, the emergency contraceptive pill should be taken within three days and ellaOne within five days of unprotected sex. Your GP practice may also offer an IUD (also known as the copper coil) which is the most effective way of preventing pregnancy. If not they can put you in contact with a local service providing emergency IUDs. The IUD can be fitted five days after unprotected sex. Our article on getting the coil fitted, explains everything you can expect. 

Can you get free contraception from your GP?

Yes, any contraception that is prescribed by your doctor will be free. In the case where you may not want to wait to see your GP, or to visit your pharmacy to pick up the prescription, then you can order directly through The Lowdown through our online contraception ordering service, where you can buy your combined pill, or progestogen-only pill (aka mini pill). One of our pharmacy clinicians will review your order and your medical history and the pill will be delivered directly to your door within a couple of days. 

Can a GP prescribe contraception to under 16s?

Yes, a GP can prescribe contraception to those under 16 if they feel that the patient is mature enough to make their own decisions and understand the implications of those decisions.  If you are under 16 and would like to explore your possibilities for contraception, then we recommend that you talk to your parents or an appropriate adult if you feel comfortable in doing so. As well as discussing contraception with your GP, there is the option of a sexual health clinic (use this handy sexual health clinic finder) or young people’s services.  

Where can I get contraception without seeing a doctor?

Up until July 2021, you have traditionally only been able to buy the emergency contraceptive pill over the counter in the UK, but the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that the desogestrel containing progestogen-only pills Lovima and Hana will also now be available to buy without a prescription over the counter from the pharmacy. For all other types of contraceptive pills in the UK, you will need a prescription.  

Want to speak to an online doctor about your contraception? Get advice from our specialist GPs at The Lowdown.

Contraception recommender | The Lowdown

Hatty is a freelance digital marketing consultant with over 10 years experience. You can view Hatty’s personal portfolio here.