Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Traditional and Home Methods

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 13: Family Planning > Traditional and Home Methods


Every community has traditional methods to prevent or stop pregnancy. Many of these can be very useful in limiting the number of children a couple has, although they are usually not as effective as modern methods. But some traditional methods are not effective at all, and some can even be very harmful.

Traditional methods that work

a woman breastfeeding a baby while sitting under a tree

Withdrawal or pulling out (coitus interruptus). With this method, a man pulls his penis out of the woman and away from her genitals before he ejaculates. This method is better than no method, but it does not always work. Sometimes a man is not able to pull out before he ejaculates. Even if the man pulls out in time, some liquid that contains sperm can leak out of his penis before ejaculation and cause pregnancy.

Separating partners after childbirth. In many communities, couples do not have sex for months or years after the birth of a baby. This allows the mother to give more time to the care of the new baby and to regain her strength without fear of pregnancy.

Sex without intercourse. There are also ways to have sex that do not cause pregnancy. Oral sex (mouth on genitals) and sexual touch (touching the genitals or other parts of the body) are both sexual activities that many couples enjoy. They have very low risk of passing HIV and other STIs. Anal sex also cannot cause pregnancy, although HIV and other STIs can pass very easily this way.

Avoiding all sexual intercourse (the man’s penis inside the woman’s vagina) is the surest way to prevent pregnancy, although it may be difficult to practice for a long time.

Traditional methods that do not work or can be harmful

  • Omens and magic do not prevent pregnancy.
  • Putting grasses, leaves, pods, and dung in the vagina can cause infection and irritation.
  • Washing out the vagina (douching) with herbs or powders does not prevent pregnancy. Sperm move very fast and some will reach the inside of the womb before they can be washed out.
  • Urinating after sex does not prevent pregnancy. (But it can help to prevent infections of the urine system.)


This page was updated:11 Sep 2017
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