This handbook provides evidence-based guidance developed through worldwide collaboration. For the first edition of this handbook, the World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Reproductive Health and Research invited more than 30 organizations to participate. The INFO Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs led the handbook development process. The INFO Project was the precursor to the Knowledge for Health Project, a publisher of this update to the Global Handbook along with WHO.

The Global Handbook is the successor to The Essentials of Contraceptive Technology (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Population Information Program, 1997).

Guidance in the first edition came from several similar consensus processes:

  • The Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use and the Selected Practice Recommendations for Contraceptive Use. WHO expert Working Groups developed these guidelines.
  • For additional questions specific to this handbook, WHO convened an expert Working Group that met in Geneva on 21–24 June 2005. To discuss topics needing special attention, several subgroups met between October 2004 and June 2005. At the June 2005 meeting the full expert Working Group reviewed and endorsed the subgroups’ recommendations.
  • Content not addressed in these consensus processes was developed through collaboration between researchers at the INFO Project and technical experts. Then, a group of experts and, finally, representatives of the collaborating organizations had the opportunity to review the entire text.

The 2011 update of the handbook further incorporated guidance from the expert Working Group meeting in April 2008 for the Medical Eligibility Criteria and the Selected Practice Recommendations and 2 Technical Consultations related to these guidelines in October 2008 and January 2010. Further guidance came from an expert Working Group meeting on HIV and infant feeding in October 2009 and a Technical Consultation on community-based provision of injectable contraceptives in June 2009.

The current update (2018) also reflects the recommendations of the expert Working Group on the Medical Eligibility Criteria and the Selected Practice Recommendations that met in May 2013, March 2014, and September 2014. Other current WHO guidance forms the basis for updates throughout the book. For WHO guidance publications used in preparing this update, click here.

A group of experts reviewed the updates to this edition, made revisions, and contributed new content. Their names are listed in the Acknowledgements.

Definitions used in this handbook

Effectiveness: Rates are largely the percentages of US women estimated to have unintended pregnancies during the first year of use, unless noted otherwise. See Appendix A.

Side effects: Conditions reported by at least 5% of users in selected studies, regardless of evidence of causality or biological plausibility, listed in order of frequency with the most common at the top.

Terms describing health risks (percentage of users experiencing a risk):
Common: ≥15% and <45%
Uncommon: ≥1% and <15%
Rare: ≥0.1% and <1% (<1 per 100 and ≥1 per 1,000)
Very rare: ≥0.01% and <0.1% (<1 per 1,000 and ≥1 per 10,000) Extremely rare: <0.01% (<1 per 10,000)