Spotlights on Health and Rights

Key topics in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health

Reproductive Health

Contraception

Sixty-one percent of all women worldwide who are within the reproductive age (15-44 years old), are using methods of contraception (methods used to deliberately prevent pregnancy). These estimates vary by region:

61% of all women worldwide, who are within the reproductive age (15-49 years old), are using methods of contraception.

  • In developed countries, 69% of women use methods of contraception, yet in developing regions it is only 59%. *Only 27% of reproductive aged women in Africa use a method.

    • 64% of reproductive aged women in Asia, and 71% in Latin America and the Caribbean use a method.
  • The most commonly used methods worldwide are female sterilization (21%), the I.U.D. (14%), and oral contraception (7%).

    • Women in more developed countries are more likely to use short-acting and reversible methods, such as oral contraceptives and condoms.
    • Women in less developed countries are more likely to use female sterilization and I.U.D.s.
  • According to the National Surveys of Family Growth (NSFG), released in 2002, 93% of U.S. women of reproductive age (15-44) who are at risk of pregnancy are using some type of contraceptive method.

Over the past 10 years, contraceptive use has increased in developing countries; however there is still a high unmet need for family planning services.

In many parts of the developing world, contraception remains either unavailable or limited. Even in the United States, where many women can choose from a variety of methods, almost half of all pregnancies are unintended.5

These unintended pregnancies are almost evenly divided between pregnancies due to non-use, and pregnancies due to contraceptive failure.

No method of contraception is 100% effective other than complete abstinence from sexual intercourse. However, many methods exist that are close to 100% effective if used consistently and correctly. People frequently fail to use their method every time or to use it perfectly. Thus, even people using a method may face an unintended pregnancy. Factors contributing to unintended pregnancy are complex, and may involve the interplay of emotional, psychosocial, political, religious, cultural, and economic forces.

The standard of care mandated in U.S. federally-funded family planning programs (Title X) includes non-judgmental counseling that is culturally sensitive, age appropriate, and offered with respect for a woman's right to confidential services.

Applying this standard of care, public health practitioners provide information, support, and counseling about contraceptive use, enabling women to make informed decisions. Public health practitioners also play important roles in designing, implementing, and evaluating programs to promote pregnancy prevention in communities, refugee camps, schools, and through the media.

Applying this standard of care, public health practitioners provide information, support, and counseling about contraceptive use, enabling women to make informed decisions. Public health practitioners also play important roles in designing, implementing, and evaluating programs to promote pregnancy prevention in communities, refugee camps, schools, and through the media..

This section provides an overview of the most commonly used contraceptive methods by category: hormonal methods, non-hormonal methods (including* emergency contraception), and *permanent methods. Each method is described as follows:

  • How the method works to prevent pregnancy (mechanism of action);
  • How the method is used;
  • Effectiveness;
  • Advantages/Disadvantages; and
  • Importance of Dual Method Use (for prevention of sexually transmitted infections).

Contraceptive effectiveness rates are estimates of the probability that a pregnancy will occur during the first year of method use. Perfect use refers to the effectiveness of a method when it is used consistently and correctly. Typical use refers to the effectiveness of a method for the average person who does not always use the method correctly and consistently.