The WHO's medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use: 20 years of global guidance

Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Dec;27(6):451-9. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0000000000000212.


Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to revisit the inception of the WHO's medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use (MEC), particularly its objectives and methodology, and to describe its impact over the last 20 years in the field of family planning. New recommendations are summarized from the newly released fifth edition of the guidance.

Recent findings: Fourteen topics, encompassing over 575 recommendations were reviewed for the MEC, fifth edition. New recommendations include: changes for combined hormonal contraceptive use among postpartum women; progestogen-only methods among breastfeeding women; and women at high risk for HIV infection, women living with HIV, and women living with HIV using antiretroviral therapy and hormonal contraception. New methods reviewed include subcutaneously administered depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, Sino-implant (II), ulipristal acetate, and progesterone-releasing vaginal ring.

Summary: Over the past 20 years, the MEC has become a remarkably influential document for practitioners and policy makers in family planning, as it provides up-to-date, evidence-based recommendations for contraceptive use for women with various medical conditions and medically relevant characteristics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Condoms
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Contraception*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Eligibility Determination / organization & administration*
  • Family Planning Services / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned
  • World Health Organization*


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal