As a woman with a disability, you have the right to decide whether to become pregnant and give birth, as well as the number, spacing, and timing of your children. You have a right to obtain accurate information and counseling regarding contraception (birth control). Remember, only you and your healthcare provider can determine which birth control method is safe for you.
Below you will find information about various contraceptive methods including hormonal medications, barrier devices, behaviors, and other methods of preventing pregnancy, with comments about possible concerns for women with disabilities.
Taking the hormones estrogen, progestin, or both together on a regular basis is an effective way to prevent pregnancy.1,2 Many women also use these hormones to reduce menstrual bleeding or have less painful periods of shorter duration.2-6
Some other medications used to control disability-related symptoms may interfere with the action of estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy.2,3,7,8 In some cases, medications for disability and hormonal contraceptives can affect each other’s effectiveness.9 Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about how hormonal contraceptives may interact with your other medications.
Many women with disabilities with limited use of their hands, such as arthritis, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular disorders, cerebral palsy, or amputation of the fingers, hands, or arms, find it difficult to use barrier methods of contraception. Some use assistive devices or ask their partner to help them place the barrier.
Behavioral methods for avoiding pregnancy may be used for various reasons, such as access, affordability, and belief systems. Abstinence, or refraining from all forms of sexual activity and genital contact, is the only 100% effective way to protect against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. However, other behavioral methods are often less effective than other methods because they require cooperation and agreement between a woman and her partner. The advantage, however, is that they have far fewer side effects and risks. This is especially true for women with mobility impairments who may have a high risk for blood clots.
Surgical methods are a usually a permanent form of contraception or menstrual management. These methods are not appropriate for adolescents with physical or intellectual and developmental disabilities. 25,26
Other Information related to Contraception and Women with Disabilities
Optimal reproductive health demands equal access to inclusive, competent, and medically appropriate reproductive health services and information. The reproductive health of women with disabilities relies on the freedom to exercise their rights to decide whether to become pregnant and give birth, as well as the number, spacing, and timing of their children.35,36 It also involves the right to prevent unplanned pregnancies by having access to effective, affordable, and accessible methods of contraception. Research suggests that women with disabilities may receive sterilization at higher rates and certain types of birth control at lower rates compared to other women.37 Women with disabilities also report experiencing both negative attitudes and misguided assumptions from clinicians when seeking contraceptive information, and facing inaccessible facilities and exam tables.38,39 Interventions are needed to improve preconception care, family planning, and the prevention of unplanned pregnancy among women with disabilities.
For General Information about Different Birth Control Options:
- Contraceptives 101| Demystifying Science Video
- Contraception Methods Summary | Center for Disease Control Article
For Easy Compare and Contrast Sites:
More Detailed Information about Individual Contraception Options:
- How Does the Birth Control Pill Work and is it Safe to Use | Planned Parenthood Video
- Birth Control Patch | Mayo Clinic
- What is the Birth Control Ring? | Planned Parenthood Video
- How Effective is the Birth Control Shot | Planned Parenthood Video
- Effectiveness of the Birth Control Implant in Your Arm | Planned Parenthood Video
- What is an IUD? Learn About IUD Effectiveness | Planned Parenthood Video
- What is a Female Condom (aka Internal Condom) and How Does it Work? | Planned Parenthood Video
- Emergency Contraception | U.S. Health and Human Services Article
- How Does the Morning After Pill/Emergency Contraception Work? | Planned Parenthood Video
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine (Grant #G08 LM012702) and Paralyzed Veterans of America Educational Foundation (Grant #848).
Page updated October 2020