Empowering women to determine for themselves whether to have children and to space their births is critical in achieving the global development agenda. Satisfying women’s demand for contraceptives to help them avoid unwanted pregnancies is essential. However, doing so will require not only increased investments, but also a reexamination of existing efforts to ensure that current and future policies and programs are more responsive to women’s needs and have as great an impact as possible.

An essential part of calibrating current efforts is to understand why many women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method. A recently released Guttmacher study analyzed data from more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and found—as our new infographics illustrate—that increasing access to modern contraceptive methods, while crucial, will not be sufficient to address all women’s obstacles to using family planning services

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The most common reasons married women give for not using a contraceptive method—despite wanting to avoid a pregnancy—are concerns about possible health risks and side effects (some likely real, and some likely based on myths or misinformation) and the belief that they don’t have sex frequently enough to warrant using a method. Breast-feeding and opposition by women themselves, their partners or others close to them are also frequently cited.

If we are to empower these women to decide whether or when to have children, family planning services must provide

  • a broad range of contraceptive options, so that women can select or change methods to best fit their needs and;
  • Information and counseling that imparts a full understanding of different methods, their use and possible side effects.

Lastly, we must invest in the development of new contraceptive technologies that address the concerns that women have with current contraceptive methods.

July 11 is World Population Day, an opportunity to raise awareness on various population issues including family planning, gender equality, poverty and maternal health. We encourage you to share these graphics with your family, friends and colleagues. And be sure to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.

For more information:

Reasons for Contraceptive NonUse among Women Having Unmet Need for Contraception in Developing Countries

Fact sheets:
Costs and Benefits of Investing in Contraceptive Services in the Developing World

Costs and Benefits of Investing in Contraceptive Services in Sub-Saharan Africa

These graphics, and the research on which they are based, were made possible by grants from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK Government.