Council Commentary

Contraceptive Discontinuation: Understanding Unmet Need

More than 225 million women worldwide want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception. 

Among these women with current unmet need, about 38 percent have used modern contraception in the past but discontinued it. More than one-half of those women stop within two years.

As the global community increases efforts to meet unmet need for contraception and expand access to family planning, it’s important to understand this phenomenon and what can be done to better meet the family planning needs of women who want to delay, space, or limit pregnancy.

On Tuesday, December 8, the Population Council and Family Planning 2020 released a review report, Contraceptive Discontinuation: Reasons, Challenges, and Solutions, that looks at why women stop using contraceptives. The report found here (Ian Askew and Sarah Castle) contributes to the body of evidence on contraceptive discontinuation and successful interventions that address some of the major factors for discontinuation.

Council experts have been at the forefront of studies on this issue; selected publications from the Council include: 



Studies on contraceptive discontinuation have shown that:

  • More than half of discontinuations are among women experiencing contraceptive failure or have problems using a specific method.
  • Adolescents have higher rates of discontinuation than adult women.
  • Myths and rumors about side effects also contribute to discontinuation.
  • Between 7 and 27% of women stop using a contraceptive method for reasons related to the service environment, including service quality and availability of a sufficient choice of methods.

For more information about discontinuation and how FP2020 and others are learning about and addressing the issue, read the new report here.