Contraceptive Use and Options

Sexual activity places many youths at risk of unplanned pregnancy, as well as HIV and other STIs. The majority of sexually active youth around the globe want to avoid, delay, or limit pregnancy but lack the knowledge, agency, or resources to do so effectively. Access to accurate information about contraception, and to the non-judgmental provision of a wide range of methods of contraception is critical in meeting the needs and basic rights of adolescents and youth. With the exception of sterilization, which is not recommended, all methods of contraception are safe, effective, and appropriate for adolescents and youth. This includes long-acting and reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs)-such as the intrauterine device and implants—as well as hormonal contraception, including emergency contraception. 

Not all youth are the same. Some are sexually active, some are sexually active but unmarried, and others are married and sexually active. Many young people, however, particularly those who are not married, lack access to contraceptive information and services. Expanding contraceptive options for young people means providing information on anything from abstinence and fertility awareness to consistent condom use and dual protection, to LARCs.


Adolescents and Family Planning: What the Evidence Shows

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) conducted a review of the literature to identify barriers to adolescents’ access to and use of family planning services, programmatic approaches for increasing access and uptake of those services, gaps in the evidence that require further research, and areas that are ripe for future investment (2014).


Preventing Early Pregnancy: What the Evidence Says

This brief provides information from WHO’s Guidelines on Preventing Early Pregnancy and Poor Reproductive Outcomes Among Adolescents in Developing Countries divided by six outcomes: (1) preventing early marriage, (2) fostering understanding and support for preventing early pregnancy, (3) increasing the use of contraception, (4) reducing coerced sex, (5) reducing unsafe abortion, and (6) increasing the use of skilled antenatal, childbirth and postpartum care.


WHO Guidelines on Preventing Early Pregnancy and Poor Reproductive Outcomes Among Adolescents in Development Countries

This document provides recommendations on action and research for preventing early pregnancy and preventing poor reproductive outcomes among adolescent girls. These guidelines are primarily intended for policy-makers, planners and program managers from governments, nongovernmental organizations and development agencies. They are also likely to be of interest to public health researchers and practitioners, professional associations and civil society organizations (2011).


The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth, and the Transformation of the Future UNFPA’s State of the World’s Population

This report provides the latest trends and statistics on adolescent and youth populations worldwide, framing investments in youth not solely as responding to the needs of young people, but also as an imperative for sustainable development.  Contraception plays an important role in adolescent and youths’ lives (2014).


High-Impact Practice in Family Planning: Adolescent-Friendly Contraceptive Services: Mainstreaming Adolescent-Friendly Elements into Existing Contraceptive Services

This brief focuses on the elements of AFCS that are typically implemented within a service delivery setting. It describes how mainstreaming AFCS can address key challenges for contraceptive programs, discusses the existing evidence of adolescent-friendly elements, outlines key issues for planning and implementation, and identifies knowledge gaps. This brief does not fully cover elements that contribute to the enabling environment for adolescent programming, which are addressed more completely in other High-Impact Practice (HIP) briefs, such as the briefs on health communication and policy (2015).


Charting the Future - Empowering Girls to Prevent Early Pregnancy

The report discusses eight key barriers, both demand- and supply-side, that limit adolescents’ contraceptive uptake. The review of the evidence suggests that what is needed is a two-pronged approach. Enabling teenagers to make informed choices about pregnancy requires
reliable, affordable access to contraceptives. However, it also requires that girls perceive a need for contraception – and feel that they are ‘allowed’ to use it (2012).


Youth and Contraception: Needs and Challenges

This USAID Global Technical Brief summarizes needs of youth for contraception, lessons learned from efforts to make options accessible, and program implications (2004).


Ensuring Universal Access to Family Planning as a Key Component of Sexual and Reproductive Health

This brief argues that despite increases in contraceptive use since 1994, a high unmet need for family planning persists. Among the most significant underserved group is a new generation of adolescents. They enter adulthood with inadequate information on sexuality and reproductive health and few skills to protect their health and rights (2010).


Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use

A useful overview of contraceptive options, with details on effectiveness rates and medical issues. A useful job aid "wheel" on the methods is also available (2015).


Improving the Quality of Reproductive Health Care for Young People

This brief uses the framework developed by USAID's Maximizing Access and Quality Initiative to illuminate key issues about the quality of reproductive health care for young adults, including limitations to contraceptive options and how to address barriers to such accessibility (2003).


Implants for Adolescents: An Option Worth Considering for Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy

This brief makes the case that implants may be a good contraceptive option for adolescents and urges providers to consider counseling adolescents on implants, in addition to other methods, as this method may address the unique contraceptive needs of young people (2010).


YouthLens No. 12: Expanding Contraceptive Options and Access for Youth

This research brief summarizes how education, services, and products can help protect youth against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It discusses how appropriate messages should be used, depending on age, level of sexual activity, and marital status (2004).


WHO Adolescent Contraceptive Use Fact Sheets

WHO has launched a set of fact sheets which disaggregate existing data to highlight key information on the use and non-use of contraceptives by adolescents (ages 15-19) in 58 low and middle-income countries across the world.

The fact sheets highlight how adolescents acquire contraception from a variety of sources. In addition, they help to uncover the reasons why adolescents do not use contraception. Countries may find it helpful to have this information when working to ensure high-quality contraception information and services for adolescents and also to develop policies and programs that can better address adolescents’ needs.