If you are sexually active it is crucial that you look after your sexual health. This includes preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs), avoiding unwanted pregnancies and keeping yourself safe and mentally well.
The Advice Place is a C:Card Dispenser, which means we can give you unlimited FREE condoms and other safer sex products if you pop in and sign up for a C:Card.
We also offer free pregnancy tests. We do not require any personal information and you will be provided with a test, no questions asked. If you have any questions or concerns, we are happy to speak to you in a private room.
There are many different methods of contraception to choose from if you and/or your sexual partner want to protect yourselves from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
Long-term contraception such as the contraceptive pill, implant, patch or injection can protect against unwanted pregnancy. These methods, however, will NOT protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Barrier contraception like male- or female condoms are the ONLY form of protection against sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy. You may choose to use both a long-term option and a barrier method.
The Family Planning Association has lots of comprehensive information on their website about different forms of contraception and the benefits and disadvantages of each. They even have a quiz geared towards both men and women to help them find the best method of contraception for them.
Remember that The Advice Place is part of NHS Lothian’s C:Card scheme, which means that you can always get free condoms, dams, lube and other safer sex products here. Find out more about the C:Card scheme and how to access it.
If you have had unprotected sex or you think that your method of contraception has not worked then there are a few different options of emergency contraception that you could consider.
Levonelle, or the ‘morning after pill,’ can prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex. The pill is only effective up to this time limit and is more likely to be successful the sooner it is taken.
Levonelle is available free from GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and some pharmacies. You can also buy it over the counter in most pharmacies including those on the high street like Lloyds or Boots. It normally costs around £25.
EllaOne is another form of emergency contraceptive. This one can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex. It can be prescribed by a GP or a trained pharmacist (if you are registered with a GP in Scotland) and is free if prescribed. It is normally given only if you have missed the 72 hour window for Levonelle. A lot of pharmacists are not trained to prescribe this but you can buy it from a pharmacy. It normally costs £35.
Both Levonelle and EllaOne are recommended only for use in an emergency and should not be used as a regular method of contraception. Both these pills contain a huge amount of hormones and may come with side effects such as nausea, fatigue, or dizziness. Your period may also come earlier or later as a result, but on the whole the side effects of taking these pills are not serious. Levonelle and EllaOne do NOT cause abortions, but instead work to delay ovulation to prevent the egg from being fertilised.
Read more about them on the NHS website.
You could also opt to have an IUD fitted to protect against pregnancy, after 5 days of having unprotected sex. An IUD is a small copper and plastic device that is fitted into your uterus by a doctor. The procedure takes between 15-20 minutes and you may experience period-type pain and light bleeding as a side effect. The IUD can stay in to act as your main method of contraception. Read more about IUDs on the Family Planning Association Website.
For more information on where to get emergency contraception and how to access services in the Lothians see the Lothian Sexual Health Website.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
If you are sexually active, it is important that you are tested regularly for STIs to protect both yourself and your partner. This is particularly important if you have had sex with a new partner or without using a barrier method like a male or female condom.
However, it is important to remember that even if you use a barrier method you can still get an STI through other forms of sexual contact, such as oral sex. Furthermore, many common STIs such as chlamydia do not manifest any symptoms, so you may be infected and not be aware of it! Not to worry though – most STIs are curable through a round of antibiotics J.
Read more here about how to reduce the risks of catching an STI.
You can get STI checks at your GP but you can also visit a specialised sexual health clinic. The main clinic in Edinburgh is at Chalmers Street Clinic just off of Lauriston Place. Make an appointment by phoning 0131 536 1070. You may have to wait up to three weeks for an appointment and at peak times they only offer appointments to patients who have symptoms.
If you wish to see a doctor at the clinic sooner you could make use of their walk-in clinic. This clinic is open from 8.30am-10am Monday-Friday. When you arrive at the clinic, providing there is space, you are given an appointment time for that day. The walk-in clinic does get very busy so you should go as early as possible. Read more here about how to get an appointment at Chalmers Street.
The Chalmers Street Clinic provides services for all people regardless of sexual orientation. However there is a dedicated clinic for men who have sex with men from 4.30pm-7pm on Wednesdays (walk in service 5pm-6pm). Read more about sexual health services specifically for the LGBT+ community on the Lothian Sexual Health site.
You can order an HIV postal testing kit through the Terance Higgins Trust here. If you would rather have someone with you when you receive the results then it may be better to go to a GP or clinic to take the test.
Find out more about what will happen during an STI test.
Read more about common STIs, symptoms and treatments.
Part of being sexually healthy is feeling secure and confident in sexual relationships, whether short term or long term.
For more advice on how sex can impact on your wellbeing, Sexual Health Scotland has lots of good information and advice on staying confident and in control.
Read their guide if you are wondering if you are ready for sex for the first time or for the first time with a new partner.
Talking about sex is an important skill and crucial for ensuring that you are happy around issues of contraception, consent and that you feel safe.
Sexual Health Scotland has a guide on talking open and honestly about sex.
For more advice and information, you could also try:
The Site – The Mix purports to provide “essential support for under 25s” and has lots of advice and information on sex and relationships, aimed at both couples and single people.
Sexpression – Sexpression is a project based at the University of Edinburgh dedicated to providing judgement-free education regarding safer sex, sexuality and relationships to students and young people around Edinburgh. Their website contains sex-positive and body-positive posts and also has a portal that allows users to submit questions that will be answered by staff.
Scarleteen – Scarleteen is an education and support organisation regarding sex and relationships, primarily directed towards young people. Their website has guides on a wide range of topics from sexual health to relationship advice, and also has many user-generated discussions as well..
LGBT+ Sexual Health
Lothian Sexual Health website has a section specifically for LGBT+ sexual health.
The main sexual health clinic in Edinburgh is the Chalmers Sexual Health Centre. LGBT+ clients are welcome to make an appointment at anytime but there is a dedicated clinic for Men who have sex with Men on a Wednesday evening from 4.30 to 7pm. Find out more information on their website.
The Advice Place is part of NHS Lothian’s C:Card scheme. We stock a wide range of products including dental dams. Learn more about C:Card.
Men who have sex with Men
ROAM Outreach - A sexual health service for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Edinburgh and the Lothian area.
GMFA - Alhough they are a London-based charity, their website provides plenty of useful information regarding sex and sexual health for men who have sex with men.
Women who have sex with Women
Lothian Sexual Health Advice for Women who have Sex with Other Women
The Advice Place guide to rights and services for trans students
NHS Booklet – Titled 'Living My Life,' this NHS booklet provides an empowering and comprehensive overview on trans* specific issues such as health, transition options, terminology, etc.
Our C:card service can provide quantities of safer sex products for sex workers.
You can also get support from SCOT-PEP, a registered charity that is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights, health, and dignity of sex workers in Scotland
Last edited 18/08/16