Voluntary Contraception

Family Planning (FP) allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility. Displacement can increase people’s desire and need for family planning while they simultaneously experience increased barriers to access. Due to the health risks of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and unsafe abortion, unprotected and unsafe sex is an important risk factor for disability and death. Unwanted pregnancies, and the risk of unsafe abortions, are also by-products of a breakdown in social order in which sexual assault and sex work may become more common. It is therefore vital that family planning is integrated into a humanitarian response and existing supply systems, to ensure that contraceptives such as condoms, pills, injectables, emergency contraceptive pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are available to meet demand from the onset of an emergency.

For more information about the IAWG’s work on voluntary contraception, please see the Voluntary Contraception Sub-Working Group page .

For emergency contraception key messages and facts and statistics, please visit here.

Key Messages:

A woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being as well as on the outcome of each pregnancy.

An estimated 225 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.

If contraception were accessible and used consistently and correctly by women wanting to avoid pregnancy, maternal deaths would decline by an estimated 25% to 35% globally.

Facts & Stats

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Around the world, about 222 million women have an unmet need for family planning. According to surveys, one in seven married women has an unmet need for contraception. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the ratio is nearly one in four.

Reference: Susheela Singh and Jacqueline Darroch, Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Family Planning Services, Estimates for 2012 (New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2012).


Around 80 million pregnancies each year are unintended and more than one-half result in induced abortion. About one-third (26.5 million) of unintended pregnancies each year result from incorrect use or failure of contraceptives.

Reference: Population Reference Bureau, World Population Data Sheet


About three in 10 unmarried adolescent women in Sub-Saharan Africa have ever had sex; 15% of unmarried adolescent women in Sub-Saharan Africa are sexually active and want to prevent pregnancy.

Reference: Lloyd CB, ed., Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries,Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2015


Female education is one of the most effective ways to prevent high-risk pregnancy and neonatal deaths. Educated girls are more likely to grow up to be healthy mothers who are better positioned to care for their children. The longer girls stay in school, the later they marry and begin childbearing.

Reference: UNESCO, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2005: The Quality Imperative, Paris, 2004.

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The average annual official development assistance (ODA) disbursed for reproductive health to 18 conflict-affected countries from 2002 to 2011 was US$ 1.93 per person per year. There was an increase of 298% in ODA for reproductive health activities to conflict-affected countries between 2002 and 2011; 56% of this increase was due to increases in HIV/AIDS funding.

Reference: Patel P, Dahab M, Tanabe M, Murphy A, Ettema L, Guy S, Roberts B. Tracking official development assistance for reproductive health in conflict-affected countries: 2002—2011. BJOG 2016; DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.13851.