Sexual and reproductive health

WHO issues new selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use

14 December 2016 : WHO has issued new and updated recommendations on the provision of contraception in the third edition of its guideline Selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use published today. The publication is one of WHO’s evidence-based guidance documents to support and strengthen national contraceptive/family planning programmes. It serves as a companion piece to Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use (MEC) which focuses on who can use contraceptive methods safely, providing guidance on the safety of various contraceptive methods in the context of specific health conditions and characteristics. This new guideline, Selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use, looks more at how to use contraceptive methods safely and effectively.

A family planning provider with a client in Nigeria.
Johns Hopkins CCP

Family planning is essential to promoting the well-being and autonomy of women, their families and their communities and ensuring quality of care in contraceptive services is paramount for achieving high standards of health for all. In order for health care workers to provide high quality contraceptive services, contraceptive programmes need to include certain elements such as:

New guideline

  • choice among a wide range of contraceptive methods;
  • evidence-based information on the effectiveness, risks and benefits of different methods;
  • technically competent, trained health workers;
  • provider–user relationships based on respect for informed choice, privacy and confidentiality;
  • the appropriate constellation of services that are available in the same locality.

The new and updated practice recommendations contained in this guideline contribute to improving the quality of care in family planning by presenting evidence-based guidance on the safe provision of contraceptive methods for both women and men. The guidelines cover method initiation/continuation, incorrect use, problems during use and programmatic issues for the following family planning methods for women and men:

  • IUDs,
  • implants,
  • progestogen-only pills,
  • combined oral contraceptive pills,
  • combined contraceptive transdermal patch,
  • combined contraceptive vaginal ring,
  • combined injectable contraceptives,
  • emergency contraception
  • Standard Days Method®
  • male sterilization.

In total, 19 topics (over 75 recommendations) were reviewed to develop this third edition. These new recommendations are summarized in the figure below.

The guideline does not provide recommendations about which specific product or brand to use after selecting a particular type of contraceptive method. Instead it looks at “how” to use contraceptive methods safely and effectively. Decisions about what methods to use should take into account client eligibility to use various contraceptive methods (please refer to the Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use, fifth edition, 2015, also known as the MEC.