Contraceptive services in Ireland
Birth control or contraception is the use of medicines, devices, or surgery to prevent pregnancy.
You can get prescriptions for contraceptive drugs and devices, as well as advice about contraception from GPs, voluntary organisations and private family planning clinics. Voluntary and private family planning clinics usually have charges but may waive them or have lower fees in certain cases.
You can read about the different contraceptive options and services on the HSE website sexualwellbeing.ie. This includes information on:
- Hormonal, non-hormonal and long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs)
- Permanent contraception such as male vasectomy and female sterilisation.
In Budget 2023 it was announced that the age range for free contraception will be extended to include women aged 16 and aged 26 to 30, from 1 September 2023.
This change requires legislation. This page will be updated as more detail becomes available.
Is contraception free in Ireland?
You can get free contraception if you are:
- A woman or person with a uterus
- Aged 17 to 26
- Living in Ireland
What contraception costs are free for people aged 17 to 26?
- Any GP appointments about your contraception options
- Contraception prescriptions from your doctor (at participating pharmacies)
- Emergency contraception (the morning-after-pill)
- Fitting, removal and check-ups of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs)
- Other types of contraception such as contraceptive injections, implants, IUS and IUDs (coils), the contraceptive patch and contraceptive ring
- Prescriptions for combined oral contraception (the daily pill)
How do I get free contraception if I am aged 17 to 26?
You do not need a medical card.
You need to book an appointment with a GP or doctor to discuss your contraception. This appointment will be free. The GP and pharmacy will ask for your:
- PPS number
- Date of birth
Your GP will use this information to let the pharmacy know not to charge you for your free contraception prescription. You can also collect your free contraception from some family planning clinics.
Is contraception covered by my medical card?
If you have a medical card, you get free contraceptive drugs, devices and free GP services including contraceptive advice. This also includes emergency contraception.
You will have to pay a prescription charge for items you get from pharmacies under the medical card scheme.
If you do not have a medical card, and you are not eligible for the free contraception scheme (above), you will have to pay for contraception and contraceptive services. You may be able to reduce the cost of your contraception through the Drug Payment Scheme. For example, the cost of long-acting reversible contraceptives such as the IUS (hormonal coil) or IUD (copper coil). You may also be able to claim tax relief on medical expenses.
Can I get free condoms in Ireland?
Using condoms every time you have sex will reduce your risk of contracting a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).
You can get free condoms from:
- Sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics
- Some sexual health NGOs
- Many third level colleges
You can also buy condoms without a prescription from many supermarkets, newsagents and pharmacies.
Condoms are not free under the medical card or free contraception scheme.
If you think you might have an STI you should get tested.
You can read more about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) from the Department of Health website.
Where can I get emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception is a back-up contraception. You can use emergency contraception to stop an unplanned pregnancy after you have had sex without using contraception, or if your method of contraception has failed (for example, the condom slipped or you missed a pill).
You can use emergency contraception up to 5 days after having unprotected sex, but it is more effective the sooner you take it after unprotected sex.
You can choose different types of emergency contraception options: The emergency contraceptive pill and the Copper Coil (also known as post-coital IUD).
You can get emergency contraception tablets (sometimes called the morning-after pill) over the counter in most pharmacies without having to go to a doctor for a prescription.
You can get free emergency contraception if:
- You have a medical card, or
- You are a woman or person with a uterus, aged 17 to 26 and living in Ireland
If you have an unplanned pregnancy and need support, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has free confidential counselling and information services to help you consider your options and access the services that you need.
My Options is a HSE free phone line and webchat providing free and confidential information and counselling for people experiencing unplanned pregnancy. This counselling and information service is also available to you if your partner is going through an unplanned pregnancy. You can read more about these services in our page on unplanned pregnancy.
You can read how to get an abortion on the HSE website.
The HSE has a list of confidential counselling and contraception information services and an easy-to-read guide to contraception (pdf).