Promotion of family planning – and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples – is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities.
Benefits of family planning / contraception
- Preventing pregnancy-related health risks in women
A woman’s ability to choose if and when to become pregnant has a direct impact on her health and well-being. Family planning allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women at increased risk of health problems and death from early childbearing. It prevents unintended pregnancies, including those of older women who face increased risks related to pregnancy. Family planning enables women who wish to limit the size of their families to do so. Evidence suggests that women who have more than 4 children are at increased risk of maternal mortality.
By reducing rates of unintended pregnancies, family planning also reduces the need for unsafe abortion.
- Reducing infant mortality
Family planning can prevent closely spaced and ill-timed pregnancies and births, which contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. Infants of mothers who die as a result of giving birth also have a greater risk of death and poor health.
- Helping to prevent HIV/AIDS
Family planning reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, resulting in fewer infected babies and orphans. In addition, male and female condoms provide dual protection against unintended pregnancies and against STIs including HIV.
- Empowering people and enhancing education
Family planning enables people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health. Family planning represents an opportunity for women to pursue additional education and participate in public life, including paid employment in non-family organizations. Additionally, having smaller families allows parents to invest more in each child. Children with fewer siblings tend to stay in school longer than those with many siblings.
- Reducing adolescent pregnancies
Pregnant adolescents are more likely to have preterm or low birth-weight babies. Babies born to adolescents have higher rates of neonatal mortality. Many adolescent girls who become pregnant have to leave school. This has long-term implications for them as individuals, their families and communities.
- Slowing population growth
Family planning is key to slowing unsustainable population growth and the resulting negative impacts on the economy, environment, and national and regional development efforts.
Who provides family planning / contraceptives?
It is important that family planning is widely available and easily accessible through midwives and other trained health workers to anyone who is sexually active, including adolescents. Midwives are trained to provide (where authorized) locally available and culturally acceptable contraceptive methods. Other trained health workers, for example community health workers, also provide counseling and some family planning methods, for example pills and condoms. For methods such as sterilization, women and men need to be referred to a clinician.
Important fact regarding family planning:
- 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method.
- Some family planning methods, such as condoms, help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
- Family planning / contraception reduces the need for abortion, especially unsafe abortion.
- Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children.
- By preventing unintended pregnancy, family planning /contraception prevents deaths of mothers and children.
Contraceptive use: Global unmet need for contraception
214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method. Reasons for this include:
- limited choice of methods;
- limited access to contraception, particularly among young people, poorer segments of populations, or unmarried people;
- fear or experience of side-effects;
- cultural or religious opposition;
- poor quality of available services;
- users and providers bias
- Gender-based barriers.
The unmet need for contraception remains too high. This inequity is fuelled by both a growing population, and a shortage of family planning services