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Short-Acting Contraceptive Methods

Helping you find contraception to suit your needs

Short-Acting Contraceptive Methods

There are two different types of short acting methods: combined hormonal contraception or CHC and the progestogen-only pill or POP. CHC refers to methods that contain two hormones: the combined oral contraception, transdermal patch and vaginal ring.

Unlike LARC methods, these methods do require regular input, whether taking the pill daily, or changing the patch weekly or three weekly intervals with the vaginal ring.

Short-Acting Methods: Pill, Patch and Ring

Short-acting methods refer to methods that you need to remember to use or take regularly, or each time you have sex, such as the contraceptive pill and the condom.

While short-acting methods offer certain flexibility, their effectiveness rates are typically less than those of long-acting contraception, and this should be taken into consideration when deciding on a method.

Short-acting methods include barrier methods such as condoms, or hormonal methods such as the pill, patch or ring.

Watch this short video from Simphiwe Sesane, MSI Reproductive Choices UK's contraceptive nurse, who will tell you a little bit about short-acting methods.


Do you know about LARC contraceptive methods?

If you really don’t want to get pregnant, say for the next year at least, it’s worth thinking about a LARC method: LARC stands for long acting reversible contraception, such as the implant, coil and injection. Once these methods are fitted you can forget about them!

Types of Short-Acting Contraceptive Methods

Contraceptive pill

A short-acting reversible contraceptive method.

At MSI Reproductive Choices we offer two contraceptive pill options: the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill (also known as POP or 'mini pill').

The combined pill

The combined pill is a hormonal contraceptive which is 99% effective with perfect use, and 91% effective with typical use. The pill needs to be taken daily in order to prevent pregnancy.

The combined pill does not interrupt sex and can relieve heavy periods and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, it may not be suitable for you if you are over 35 or a smoker.

Most instructions tell you to take a seven-day pill-free break but you can choose to shorten this break, or to miss it and not have a withdrawal bleed. For more information please read the Family Planning Association (FPA) guidance on ‘How to use the pill’ and what to do if you ‘forget to take a pill or start a pack late’.

The progestogen-only pill

The progestogen-only pill is a hormonal contraceptive that works by either preventing sperm entering the womb or preventing an egg from being released.

It's suitable for women who do not want, or are unable to take oestrogen. It's 91% effective with typical use, and needs to be taken daily to prevent pregnancy.

It can be used by women who smoke or are breastfeeding. Periods may become irregular, or stop altogether.


A short-acting reversible contraceptive method.

The contraceptive patch sticks onto your skin and releases oestrogen and progestogen to prevent pregnancy. A new patch needs to be applied weekly to protect you from pregnancy.

If used correctly, the patch is over 99% effective, but this can drop to 91% with typical use.

It’s very easy to use and you only have to remember to change it once a week. It won’t be affected by vomiting or diarrhoea, and can help with heavy periods and premenstrual symptoms.

You may experience some side effects of the patch, including headaches and mood swings, and it might irritate your skin.

Most instructions tell you to take a seven day patch-free break but you can choose to shorten this break or to miss it and not have a withdrawal bleed. For more information please read the Family Planning Association (FPA) guidance on ‘How to use the patch’ and ‘What if I’ve used the patch incorrectly’.

Vaginal Ring

The combined contraceptive vaginal ring is a small soft ring that you insert into your vagina. It contains two hormones, progestogen and oestrogen, similar to the hormones in your body.  

The hormones primarily prevent an egg from being released each month. They also make it difficult for sperm to get to an egg and thin the uterus (womb) lining to make it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant there. 

The ring is kept in the vagina continuously night and day for three weeks and then taken out for a week if you want to have a monthly bleed. A new ring needs to be inserted immediately after a week to maintain contraceptive protection. 

How do I use the vaginal ring? 

  • With clean hands, squeeze the ring between your thumb and finger and use one hand to insert it into your vagina. If necessary, spread your labia (vaginal lips) with your other hand. Push the ring into your vagina until it feels comfortable
  • The ring needs to be replaced with a new one every 3-4 weeks depending on whether you want to have a withdrawal bleed that month
  • Users of the vaginal ring have the option to have a monthly bleed or to skip or shorten their monthly bleed

For more information please read the Family Planning Association (FPA) guidance on ‘Contraceptive Vaginal Ring


A short-acting reversible contraceptive method.

Condoms are a barrier method for stopping semen from entering a womb. You can get both external condoms that are worn on a penis, and internal condoms that are worn inside the vagina.

When used correctly, condoms are highly effective. They are also the only contraceptive method that protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and syphilis.

However, condoms can break or slip off, and you do have to use a new one each time you have sex.

Contact us if you have any questions

Remember that contraception counselling is part of your abortion treatment: we are here to help you find a method of contraception that best suits your individual needs.

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