Feature Article

An updated guide to contraception. Part 3: Permanent methods, traditional methods and emergency contraception

Mary Stewart, Kathleen McNamee, Caroline Harvey, Deborah Bateson


© fizkes/stock.adobe.com    model used for illustrative purposes only
© fizkes/stock.adobe.com model used for illustrative purposes only


Permanent methods of contraception have high efficacy but their usage is falling, which may relate to increased awareness and uptake of  long-acting reversible contraception. Traditional methods – the barrier methods, fertility awareness methods, withdrawal and lactational amenorrhoea – remain valued options despite lower efficacy in typical use than modern methods. Emergency contraception has an important role in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies.

Key Points

  • The use of permanent contraceptive methods is decreasing with the increasing availability and acceptability of long-acting reversible contraception.
  • Barrier methods, including male and female condoms and diaphragms, require sustained motivation and correct use to be effective contraceptives.
  • Condoms (male and female) offer good protection against sexually transmitted infections but use of an additional contraceptive method is usually recommended to ensure good contraceptive efficacy.
  • Fertility awareness methods require an understanding of the female reproductive cycle and a commitment to daily vigilance of physical changes, signs and symptoms.
  • Women wishing to avoid an unintended pregnancy should be provided with information about emergency contraception, including its mode of action and where to access it.