Contraception is the use of any of various methods to prevent pregnancy. Family planning, in contrast, involves the use of contraception or other measures to limit the number of children and plan the timing and spacing of births. Contraception has been used throughout history. Early methods, however, were ineffective (drinking potions or douching) or dangerous and not available to all people. By the middle of the twentieth century, only 13 percent of couples worldwide used effective methods of contraception. By the year 2000, UNICEF estimated that this figure had risen to 50 percent.
Contraceptive use is not equally distributed throughout the world. Most of western Europe, the United States, parts of Latin America, and Oceania demonstrate high levels of use. India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Oman, Yemen, Haiti, Guatemala, Bolivia, and nations in sub-Sahara Africa demonstrate low contraceptive use and high fertility. In the past, family planning programs in some countries were, in effect, population control programs. They were often coercive and did not allow families choice. This is changing, as more people want to limit their family size. In some places, such as China, a strict population control policy is still in place.
In l994, the global attendees at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, placed family planning within a holistic context of reproductive health, and family planning is now considered to be a human right. Family planning helps save women's lives. Over 585,000 women die every year from unsafe abortion, childbirth, and pregnancy, with 90 percent of the deaths occurring in developing countries. These deaths are largely preventable; and contraception could play a role in preventing them.
Despite advances in contraceptive technologies, there is no single method that suits everyone. In some places, choice is limited and access is difficult, resulting in an unmet need for contraception (the condition of wanting to avoid or delay childbearing, but not using a contraceptive method).
One way to categorize contraceptive technologies is by the duration of protection. There are permanent, long-term, and short-term methods. In addition to these technologies, there are also behavioral methods of contraception. What follows is a list of all contraceptive technologies and behaviors, how they prevent pregnancy, their effectiveness, potential problems or side effects, and whether they also prevent reproductive tract infections (RTIs), hepatitis C, or sexual transmission of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
SUELLEN MILLER, The Gale Group Inc., Macmillan Reference USA, New York,