Hesperian Health Guides

Choosing a family planning method

This content is from
pages 200 to 201 of Where Women Have No Doctor

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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 menWWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-1 gray.png ★★ Good good STI protection Most effective when used with spermicide and water-based lubricant. Use with other methods to prevent STIs.
Condom for womenWWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-2.png ★★ Good good STI protection
Diaphragm or cervical cap (with spermicide) WWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-3.png ★★ Good some STI protection Most effective when used with spermicide. Effective only when using the correct size.
Spermicide or spongeWWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-4.png ★ Some no STI protection
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Skin allergy
More effective when used with another barrier method like diaphragm or condom.
Hormonal Methods

Birth control pill, patch, injections, vaginal ring
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no STI protection
WWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-19 gray.png

Nausea, headaches, changes in monthly bleeding
These methods may be dangerous for women with certain health problems.
IUDWWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-9.png ★★★★ BEST no STI protection
WWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-19.png

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)
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★★★ 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
WWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-12 gray.png
★★ GOOD no STI protection A woman must understand when she is fertile and be able to choose when to have sex with intercourse.
WWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-13.pngWWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-14.png
★★★★ BEST no STI protection A woman or a man will never be able to have babies after this operation.
Pulling out (Withdrawal)
WWHND10 Ch13 Page 201-15 gray.png
★ SOME some STI protection More effective when used with another method like spermicide or diaphragm.

This page was updated:23 Oct 2019