When contraception is halachically permissible for a couple, they need to choose a method. They should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the various forms of contraception, taking halachic, medical, and personal considerations into account. These decisions may change over time for a couple as their situation changes.
This article outlines some general considerations relevant to choosing a method:
Is the method safe? Sometimes, a woman’s medical condition, or her family medical history, indicates that a particular method could be risky for her. Safety is also an important halachic concern. A woman should discuss with her physician which methods are safe for her to use.
Is the method effective? If it is essential to avoid pregnancy, the couple should choose a very reliable method. If pregnancy is undesirable but still would not be disastrous, they may opt for a method that is somewhat less dependable, but which they prefer for some other reason.
The efficacy rates cited on our site are from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please see here for an explanation of efficacy statistics.
Is the method reasonably convenient? This can involve several factors:
Active or Passive Use Some methods require a woman to take a more active role, either at the time of marital relations or on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Some methods work on their own, but require a medical procedure at the beginning and end of use.
Timing Some methods are appropriate only for couples planning to use contraception for an extended period. Others work well for short-term contraception. Some methods can be implemented on short notice, while others take more time.
Availability The availability of a given method can vary based on location. Sometimes, a method goes off the market temporarily or permanently. Cost can also be a factor, and can vary based on a country’s health system and/or a woman’s insurance plan.
Side Effects Some methods, especially hormonal ones, are associated with a variety of side effects.
Is the method halachically permissible? Some methods are halachically preferable to others, and some are rarely or never permitted. The permissibility of a given method may depend on the couple’s individual circumstances, and on the approach of a halachic authority that they consult. Halachic considerations include:
Mitzvat Onah Marital relations are an essential component of marriage. Therefore, halacha does not endorse abstinence as a long-term contraceptive method. (Abstinence may occasionally be the preferred method when very effective contraception is needed for a brief period.)
Natural Relations Allowing marital relations to take place as “naturally” as possible is also a consideration; thus, some weight may be placed on whether the husband is physically aware of a contraceptive device.
Hotza’at Zera L’vatalah Halacha generally only permits ejaculation of semen unimpeded, in the context of marital relations. Otherwise, ejaculation may violate the prohibition of hotza’at zera levatalah, wasting of seed. This is an important consideration with barrier methods of contraception.
P’ru Uvr’vu Because men are directly obligated in the mitzva to procreate and women are not, there is often a preference for methods that a woman can put in place without her husband’s direct involvement.
Reversibility Reversibility is a critical halachic concern; irreversible methods (sterilization) are only rarely permitted (see here). Reversibility is also essential where a couple wishes to preserve the possibility of having children in the future.
Are there halachically significant side effects? Some methods cause irregular bleeding or spotting. Couples using such methods should be prepared for a difficult beginning (spotting often subsides after a few cycles), and should be familiar with the laws of stains. The copper IUD can cause heavier and/or longer periods.
Are there halachically significant side benefits? With continued use, some hormonal methods allow a woman to manipulate or lengthen her cycle, or may eliminate menstruation altogether.
To learn more about specific contraceptive methods, please refer to the articles below:
Combined Hormones (Estrogen & Progesterone)
Progesterone Only Contraception
Barrier Methods, Spermicides, and Gels
Natural Methods (Fertility Awareness Method and Lactational Amenorrhea Method)
Sterilization (Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy)
This article was updated on 24 July, 2022.