Sexual and reproductive health

Contraception: past, present and future and why it matters

26 September 2016: World contraception day

Photo montage showing different contraceptive methods

Over the past 25 years, considerable progress has been made in women's sexual and reproductive health, including increases in contraceptive use, spurred by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The Secretary-General's ‘Every Woman Every Child' strategy catalysed increased leadership and commitment from governments and development partners, United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organisations, foundations, academia and professional associations for achieving universal access to reproductive health. The updated Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030 was launched to help further the Sustainable Development Goals that encompass many key aspects of SRHR, including access to sexual and reproductive health.

"Contraception has diverse health and non-health benefits and is one of the best investments for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health"

Dr James Kiarie,
Coordinator Human Reproduction Team

Despite the positive global trends there are large differences among and within countries. Over 200 million women worldwide would like to avoid a pregnancy but are not using an effective method of contraception. Reasons for this vary from each country but are related to a lack of supplies, cultural and political barriers and poor quality of services.

For policy-makers and programme managers it is critical that their decisions are informed by important lessons that we can learn from history and knowledge of what opportunities the future holds.

Video series

The video series is intended as an educational advocacy product and also for programme managers and policy makers to reinforce their commitment to prioritize modern contraception programmes and research based on a better understanding of the history and future directions of family planning and contraception. The four videos

  • explore from a historical perspective the origins, methods, social norms, attitudes and politics of family planning and contraception;
  • highlight the short and long term developments that are likely to occur in the field of family planning and contraception by 2030;
  • highlight perspectives of youth regarding status and challenges of contraceptive services and priority areas in which they would like to see progress;
  • outline WHO’s vision, mission and current work in family planning and contraception in the global perspective.

Why contraception

Recounted by Dr Christian Fiala, MD, Phd. Director of the Museum of Contraception and Abortion, Vienna. This short film provides an overview of the origins, methods, social norms, attitudes and politics of family planning and contraception and explains why safe and acceptable methods of contraception are important. The video highlights important lessons that can be learnt from the history of contraception by exploring the individual needs vs. programmes and ideologies as well as men’s options, choices and responsibilities.

WHO and the development of contraceptive methods

Dr Ian Askew, Director, WHO, Reproductive Health and Research (includes UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/ World Bank Special Programme – HRP) discusses WHO’s mission and vision regarding contraception and family planning. He takes a look at the history of contraceptive method development and explains how ensuring access to a range of effective of contraception contributes to improving sexual and reproductive around the world. It highlights the importance of research and explains how WHO and HRP’s evidence-based work guides countries as they seek to implement effective high-quality contraceptive programmes.

The value of contraceptive research and development

Professor John Towsend, Vice President and Director of the Population Council Reproductive Health Program talks about how developing safe, effective and acceptable contraceptive methods can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The film provides short- and long-term perspectives on the future of contraception and family planning in terms of opportunities, right to choices, benefits to users health systems and the demographic dividend.

Youth and contraception

Michalina Drejza, International Youth Alliance on Family Planning: A final year medical student from Poland, Michalina Drejza talks about some of the challenges faced by young people and the importance of ensuring that they have access to effective, high-quality contraceptive education, counselling and services. She introduces short clips from young people from around the world talking about what they think is important in future thinking around the provision of contraception.

Further information