Explainer: Birth control options

At least 58% of all women of reproductive age use contraception methods.

Contraception is for both partners
Contraception is for both partners

In Kenya, at least 58 per cent of all women of reproductive age use contraception or modern birth control methods.

These can be broadly classified into barrier methods (that prevent sperm cells from reaching the egg), methods that prevent ovulation such as the birth control pill, and methods that allow fertilisation of the egg but prevent implantation of the fertilised egg inside the uterus (womb) such as the IUD (intrauterine device).

Condoms and diaphragms are examples of barrier birth control methods.

Birth control pills are an example of hormonal birth control methods, which prevent ovulation.

Hormonal methods are the most popular in Kenya, according to the Ministry of Health.

Implants are another hormonal method. Here, a small, flexible rod is placed under the skin in a woman’s upper arm, releasing a form of the hormone progesterone.

The hormone stops the ovary releasing the egg and thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb. The implant requires a small procedure using local anaesthetic to fit and remove the rod and needs to be replaced after three years.

The Intrauterine Device (IUD) is another hormonal contraception that works in a similar way.

It is a small, T-shaped device is made of material containing progesterone hormone or plastic and copper and is fitted inside a woman’s uterus by a trained healthcare provider. It's a long-acting and reversible method of contraception, which can stay in place for three to 10 years, depending on the type.

Pros of an implant include the fact that it is highly effective; doesn’t interfere with sex and it is a long-lasting, reversible contraceptive option.


Cons include requiring a trained healthcare provider for insertion and removal. There can be irregular bleeding initially and it does not protect against STIs.

The injection is another hormonal method. It contains a synthetic version of the hormone progestogen. It is injected into a woman’s buttock or upper arm, and over the next 12 weeks the hormone is slowly released into the bloodstream.

The choice of contraception depends on many factors, such as the desire for reversible birth control (preserving future fertility) or permanent birth control (surgical sterilisation). Some birth control methods, such as barrier options, may offer some protection against sexually transmitted diseases, while most do not.

No method of birth control is 100 per cent effective in preventing STDs.