Sexual and reproductive health

Expanding contraceptive choice

Evidence brief


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Publication details

Number of pages: 4
Publication date: 2017
Languages: English
WHO reference number: WHO/RHR/17.14


Expanding contraceptive options for voluntary family planning is critical for several reasons. First, individuals have different needs for pregnancy prevention depending on their personal and family context, and needs may vary throughout the reproductive lifecycle. Second, some women discontinue contraceptive use even though they want to avoid pregnancy (1,2); these women account for nearly two-fifths (38%) of those with unmet need (3). Having a wide choice of contraceptives will meet the needs of some discontinuers if they have the option of switching; broadened method availability can reduce contraceptive discontinuation by 8 percent (3). Third, three-fifths of women (62%) with unmet need have never used contraception (3), and a wider range of options may lead some of these women to become users. For example, increasing availability of one new method can increase contraceptive prevalence by 8 percentage points (4). Finally, some users will have a need for contraceptives that provide protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

Related evidence briefs

  • Ali, M.M., J.G. Cleland, and I.H. Shah, Causes and consequences of contraceptive discontinuation: evidence from 60 Demographic and Health Surveys. 2012, WHO: Geneva, Switzerland.
  • FP2020 and Population Council, 2015. Contraceptive discontinuation: Reasons, challenges and solutions.
  • Jain, A, Obare, F., RamaRao, S., and I. Askew. 2013. “Reducing unmet need by supporting women with met need,” International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health Vol. 39(3): 133–141. doi: 10.1363/3913313.
  • Ross, J. and J. Stover. 2013. “Use of modern contraception increases when more methods become available: analysis of evidence from 1982-2009,” Global Health Science and Practice, Vol. 1(2): 203-212.