Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Choosing a family planning method

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 13: Family Planning > Choosing a Family Planning Method

Once you have decided to use family planning, you must choose a method. To make a good decision you must first learn about the different methods, and their advantages and disadvantages.

There are 5 main types of family planning methods:

  • Barrier methods, which prevent pregnancy by keeping the sperm from reaching the egg.
  • Hormonal methods, which prevent the woman’s ovary from releasing an egg, make it harder for the sperm to reach the egg, and keep the lining of the womb from supporting a pregnancy.
  • IUDs, which prevent the man’s sperm from fertilizing the woman’s egg.
  • Natural methods, which help a woman know when she is fertile, so that she can avoid having sex at that time.
  • Permanent methods. These are operations which make it impossible for a man or a woman to have any children.

Protection from Pregnancy Protection from STIs Possible Side Effects Other Important Information
Condom for men ★★ Good good STI protection Most effective when used with spermicide and water-based lubricant. Use with other methods to prevent STIs.
Condom for women ★★ Good good STI protection
Diaphragm (with spermicide) ★★ Good some STI protection Most effective when used with spermicide. Effective only when using the correct size.
Spermicide ★ Some no STI protection

Skin allergy
More effective when used with another barrier method like diaphragm or condom.
Hormonal Methods

Birth control pill, patch, injections




no STI protection

Nausea, headaches, changes in monthly bleeding
These methods may be dangerous for women with certain health problems.
IUD ★★★★ BEST no STI protection

heavy and painful monthly bleeding
This method may be dangerous for women with certain health problems.
Sex without intercourse (penis not inside vagina at all) ★★★★ BEST some STI protection Sexual touch rarely passes STIs. Oral sex is less likely to pass STIs. Anal sex easily passes STIs.
Breastfeeding (during the first 6 months only)
★★★ VERY GOOD no STI protection To be effective, a woman must give her baby only breast milk, and her monthly bleeding must not have returned.
Fertility awareness
★★ GOOD no STI protection A woman must understand when she is fertile and be able to choose when to have sex with intercourse.
★★★★ BEST no STI protection A woman or a man will never be able to have babies after this operation.
Pulling out (Withdrawal)
★ SOME some STI protection More effective when used with another method like spermicide or diaphragm.

This page was updated:11 Sep 2017