Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 7: Protecting Women's Health with Family Planning
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Access to family planning is a critical part of any effort to improve the health of women, and is part of their right to health. Women are healthier when they can decide for themselves when to have sex and if and when to have children. Family planning with birth control or contraception enables women to make those decisions.
Family planning is not new. Women have always used abstinence (no intercourse) and breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy. Some women use knowledge of their monthly cycles and fertile times to prevent pregnancy or to help them get pregnant. Today, there are many different contraceptive methods. These include barrier methods such as the male or female condom; hormonal methods, such as birth control pills, injections, and implants; IUDs (intrauterine devices); and permanent sterilization. Using any of these methods is sometimes called "birth control," "child spacing," or "contraception."