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Family planning

Children by choice, not by chance

We believe that everyone should have the right to choose whether and when to have children, no matter where they live.

Our dedicated team are committed to providing more access to family planning products, services and information. Family planning allows people to attain their desired number of children and determine the spacing of pregnancies. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of infertility

Key Facts

  • 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method.
  • Some family planning methods, such as condoms, help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Family planning / contraception reduces the need for abortion, especially unsafe abortion.
  • Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children.
  • By preventing unintended pregnancy, family planning /contraception prevents deaths of mothers and children because if you are not pregnant, you cannot die from pregnancy related complications

If you're starting to use contraception for the first time, or thinking about using a new method, it's a good idea to have a full consultation.

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Benefits of Family Planning/Contraception

Prevents Pregnancy-related Health Risks in Women

  • A woman’s ability to choose if to and when to become pregnant has a direct impact on her health and well-being.
  • Family planning allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women who have higher risk of health problems and death from early childbearing.
  • It prevents unintended pregnancies, including those of older women who face increased risks related to pregnancy.
  • Family planning programmes avails women the choice to limit the size of their families and to determine when to do so. Evidence suggests that women who have more than 4 children are at increased risk of maternal mortality.
  • By reducing rates of unintended pregnancies, family planning also reduces the need for unsafe abortion.

Reduces Infant Mortality

  • Family planning can prevent closely spaced and ill-timed pregnancies and births, which contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates.
  • Infants of mothers who die as a result of giving birth also have a greater risk of death and poor health.

Helps prevent HIV/AIDS

  • Family planning reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, resulting in fewer infected babies and fewer orphans.
  • In addition, male and female condoms provide dual protection against unintended pregnancies and against STIs including HIV.

Empowers People and Enhances Education

  • Family planning enables people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
  • Family planning represents an opportunity for women to pursue additional education and participate in public life, including paid employment in non-family organizations.
  • Additionally, having smaller families allows parents to invest more in each child. Children with fewer siblings tend to stay in school longer than those with many siblings.

Reduces Adolescent Pregnancies

  • Pregnant adolescents are more likely to have preterm or low birth-weight babies.
  • Babies born to adolescents have higher rates of neonatal mortality.
  • Many adolescent girls who become pregnant have to leave school, which has long-term implications for them as individuals, their families and communities.

Slows Population Growth

  • Family planning is key to slowing unsustainable population growth and the resulting negative impacts on the economy, environment, and national and regional developmental efforts.

A matter of life and death

For some, not being able to control the number and spacing of their children is a matter of life and death.

Some 289,000 women die each year – mostly in poor countries – as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. For others, having no access to reproductive choice locks them into extreme poverty.

At Marie Stopes, our goal is to give people a choice, so they can manage their own families, and their own futures.

Committed to providing choice

For those women who choose to prevent a pregnancy, we provide a full range of modern family planning methods, along with counselling about each option so they can make an informed choice that’s right for them.

We’re committed to providing choice in family planning. We offer both short term methods such as condoms, and long term methods, such as IUDs and implants, allowing clients to make informed choices about the most suitable contraception for them.

As well as expanding choice in contraceptive methods, we’re also increasing choice in the types of outlets where people can access family planning services.

Promotion of family planning – and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples – is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of families and communities.

Contraceptive Methods

There are both traditional and modern contraceptive methods. All traditional methods are not reliable as there is no scientific proof of their effectiveness.

Modern methods

There are two types of modern contraceptive methods thus:

  • Reversible
  • Permanent/non-reversible methods.

Reversible methods are further classified as short-term methods and Long-term methods.

Unsure which method is right for you? Take a look at our online contraception tool – Choice. The website uses a simple questionnaire to provide you with clear, tailored advice on your contraceptive options.

Short-term Contraceptive Methods


Combined Oral Contraceptives (COCs) or “the pill” - Contains two hormones (estrogen and progestogen).
How it works: Prevents the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation)
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: >99% with correct and consistent use; 92% as commonly used
Useful Comments: Reduces risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.

Progestogen-only pills (POPs) or "the minipill" - Contains only progestogen hormone, not estrogen.
How it works: Thickens cervical mucous to block sperm and egg from meeting and prevents ovulation.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: 99% with correct and consistent use; 90–97% as commonly used.
Useful Comments: Can be used while breastfeeding; must be taken at the same time each day.

Emergency contraception pills (ulipristal acetate 30 mg or levonorgestrel 1.5 mg) -  Pills taken to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex

How it works: Delays ovulation.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: If all 100 women used progestin-only emergency contraception, one would likely become pregnant.
Useful Comments: Does not disrupt an already existing pregnancy.


Depo-Provera (Progestogen only injectables). Injected into the muscle or under the skin (in the arm or buttocks) every 3 months, depending on product.
How it works: Thickens cervical mucous to block sperm and egg from meeting and prevents ovulation.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: >99% with correct and consistent use; 97% as commonly used.
Useful Comments: Delayed return to fertility (about 1–4 months on the average) after use; irregular vaginal bleeding common, but not harmful. It’s not recommended for those who have: Unexplained vaginal bleeding; Liver disease; breast cancer; and blood clots.


Male condoms - Sheaths or coverings that fit over a man's erect penis.
How it works: Forms a barrier to prevent sperm and egg from meeting.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: 98% with correct and consistent use; 85% as commonly used.
Useful Comments: Also protects against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Female condoms - Sheaths, or linings, that fit loosely inside a woman's vagina, made of thin, transparent, soft plastic film
How it works: Forms a barrier to prevent sperm and egg from meeting.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: 90% with correct and consistent use; 79% as commonly used.
Useful Comments: Also protects against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Long-term /Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) Methods - range from 3 to 12 years.

Implants (Captain Band) - Small, flexible rods or capsules placed under the skin of the upper arm; contains progestogen hormone only
How it works: Thickens cervical mucous to block sperm and egg from meeting and prevents ovulation.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: >99%
Useful Comments: Health-care provider must insert and remove; can be used for 3–5 years depending on implant; changes in menstrual flow common but not harmful.

Intrauterine Device (IUD): copper containing - Small flexible plastic device containing copper sleeves or wire that is inserted into the uterus
How it works: Copper component damages sperm and prevents it from meeting the egg.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: >99%.
Useful Comments: Longer and heavier periods during first months of use are common but not harmful; can also be used as emergency contraception.

Permanent Methods

Male sterilization (vasectomy) - Permanent contraception to block or cut the vas deferens tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. No hormonal effect required. It is a simple surgical procedure.
How it works: Keeps sperm out of ejaculated semen.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: >99% after 3 months semen evaluation; 97–98% with no semen evaluation.
Useful Comments: 3 months delay in taking effect because stored sperm is still present and takes about 3 months to clear; does not affect male sexual performance; voluntary and informed choice is essential.

Female Sterilization (Tubal Ligation) - Permanent contraception to block or cut the fallopian tubes. No hormonal effect required.  It is a simple surgical procedure. It does not require regular intake of medicines or injections.
How it works: Eggs are blocked from meeting sperm.
Effectiveness to prevent pregnancy: >99%.
Useful Comments: Voluntary and informed choice is essential

Reaching the under-served

In order to reach the people who need our services most – those in remote rural areas or poorly served urban slums – we use a variety of different delivery channels.

Mobile outreach teams travel out from our centres to take family planning services to hard-to-reach communities in more than 30,000 locations.

We also work with networks of existing private healthcare providers and now have 4,100 providers including doctors and midwives who belong to our innovative social franchise network, driving up quality and choice in contraception services.

Delivering impact

We measure our impact in family planning by estimating the number of couple years of protection, or CYPs, we have provided.

Over the past five years, our family planning services have expanded in all the regions we work in.

If you'd like to ind out more about our impact, including highlights of our most recent reports, use the link below.

Our impact

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