Frequently asked questions about sexual healthcare services (formerly family planning) in Northern Ireland
Sexual healthcare clinics provide free help and advice about family planning options and reproductive health in strict confidence. Clinics provide an alternative to GP or hospital-based clinics.
There are many different methods of contraception but not all methods are suitable for all people. Specially trained staff are available to help you decide what the right choice is for you.
Sexual healthcare services include the following:
- family planning and related sexual health advice, information and services;
- contraception – free counselling, assessment and dispensing of the full range of methods;
- specialist services at some locations such as intrauterine device (IUD) and implant insertion (health care professionals can refer to these service or clients can refer themselves self-refer);
- cervical screening;
- emergency contraception;
- pregnancy testing;
- advice on all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, investigations/onward referrals/links to GP, Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinics and secondary care as appropriate;
- health promotion and education;
- free condoms.
Women, men and young people including those who are under 16 years of age.
When you arrive at the clinic you will report to the reception desk. The receptionist will require some personal details.
When you register you will be asked for your name, address, date of birth, name of GP, contact telephone number and consent for getting in touch with you.
When you attend the clinic you will be asked to provide a sexual history to the doctor/nurse/health advisor.
Your sexual history includes:
- the last time you had sex and whether this was with a regular or casual partner;
- the type of sex involved (vaginal, anal or oral);
- if a condom was used.
You will also be asked about:
- any symptoms you may have;
- health history;
- any medication you are taking;
- periods, cervical screening tests (often called a smear test) and pregnancies.
You may feel that some of the questions are very personal but they are asked so the correct advice, tests, treatment and support are offered.
You may also be seen by a doctor, and some clinics have a health advisor who will talk to you about looking after your sexual health. You will be given your method of contraception at the clinic. You will not have to take a prescription to the chemist.
You are welcome to bring a friend/partner with you to the clinic. If you feel that you need your friend or partner to stay with you during your consultation just speak to the staff. Alternatively, a request can be made for a chaperone (this means having another member of staff present during your medical examination).
No, the consultation, any tests and any treatment provided is free.
Yes, unless you have shared something that indicates you are at risk or someone else is. In this case the staff would talk to you about their concerns and work with you to protect you or others.
There are a number of methods of contraceptive including:
- combined pill;
- contraceptive implant;
- contraceptive injections;
- contraceptive patch;
- contraceptive vaginal ring;
- diaphragms and caps;
- intrauterine device (IUD);
- intrauterine system (IUS);
- long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
- natural family planning;
- progesterone only pill;
- male and female sterilisation.