This article was contributed by NHS Choices

NHS Choices is the online 'front door' to the NHS. It is the country's biggest health website and gives all the information you need to make choices about your health. NHS Choices is looked after by HSCIC.

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If your teen is sexually active

Image: AnonM

Finding out your teen is already having sex can be a shock. Here’s how to handle the situation and support them

If you discover that your child is sexually active before you’d like, try to stay calm. You might be upset but it’s important you remain open to them. You are an important source of support and information for them.

‘Remind them that just because they’ve started, it doesn’t mean that they have to carry on if they no longer want to’

It can be nerve-wracking for a young person when their parent or carer finds out they’re having sex and reacting negatively could push them away. Be supportive, listen to them and make sure they’re happy and comfortable with their decision to start having sex. Also remind them that just because they’ve started, it doesn’t mean that they have to carry on if they no longer want to.

Ask them if they’re using contraception already. Young people are often more sensible than we give them credit for. They may have already researched the options and chosen a suitable contraceptive.

If they haven’t, or are unsure or unhappy about their chosen form of contraception, let them know it’s really important they look into it further. It’s worth recommending informative websites (see Further reading at the bottom of article) and also giving them information on where they can go to get contraception and discuss their options (see below).

Where to get contraception

Contraception is free for everyone on the NHS and there are a number of places you can go to get information and/ or a prescription:

  • Most GP surgeries – talk to your GP or practice nurse.
  • Community contraception clinics.
  • Some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.
  • Sexual health clinics – they also offer contraceptive and STI testing services.
  • Some young people's services (call the Department of Health's Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123 for more information).

Forms of contraception

There are several different types of contraception, all with varying benefits and drawbacks. Being informed about all the different types means that your teen will be able to choose the best contraception for them.

  • Combined pill 
  • Condoms (male and female) 
  • Contraceptive patch 
  • Contraceptive vaginal ring 
  • Diaphragms and caps 
  • Emergency contraception 
  • Natural family planning 
  • Progestogen-only pill (POP) 

Long acting reversible contraception (LARC) 

  • IUD 
  • IUS 
  • Contraceptive implant 
  • Contraceptive injection

Contraception and your son

Your son may assume he doesn’t need to think too much about contraception, other than condom use, but remind him that it’s equally his responsibility and he needs to make sure he’s safe too. Men don’t get a legal say in their partner’s choice to have an abortion (or not) which can lead to a lot of distress in the event of a pregnancy.

He can help prevent this by making sure he’s involved in his partner’s decision on contraception. If he’s worried or embarrassed about bringing it up, remind him that they’ll likely appreciate his support and that it’s a great way to strengthen a relationship. 

If your son or daughter has had unprotected sex

Let them know they’ll need to visit a sexual health clinic to check that they haven’t contracted any STIs. Remind them they should do this regularly once they become sexually active.  


To protect from pregnancy there are two different types of emergency contraception. Both of them prevent the pregnancy from occurring and are not forms of abortion.

Emergency contraceptive pill                                                                                         

Levonelle: Effective up to 72 hours after intercourse.                                                                                        
EllaOne: Effective up to five days after intercourse.

EllaOne, is available to girls under 16 in any pharmacy that stocks it. The pill usually costs £25-£35.

To get the emergency contraceptive pill from a pharmacy, all women have to undergo an interview with a pharmacist to determine that they fully understand how the pill works and whether they need it.

You can get the emergency contraceptive pill from:

  • Most NHS walk-in centres (England only) and minor injuries units.
  • Some hospital accident and emergency departments (phone first to check).
  • Most pharmacies, but you’ll probably have to pay. 
Emergency IUD fitting
An IUD can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex. Your daughter will need to see a doctor or go to a sexual health clinic to discuss it further.


Gay men can also get a ‘morning after pill’ which may prevent HIV.

If your child is LGBTQ+

Remind them that it is still important to exercise safe sex with any partner they have by using a condom and/or dam (a soft latex or polyurethane square that prevents the spread of STIs during oral sex.) 

Further reading

Brook provides free and confidential sexual health and wellbeing services specifically for young people

FPA (Family Planning Association) provides advice and support to people of all ages in the UK via its Sexwise service

NHS Choices has some fantastic information on contraception

bpas (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) offers advice and support if you become pregnant unexpectedly

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: ​May 2018

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