BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Family Planning: A global issue



Family planning is a significant part of healthcare, and is important to not just the family unit but also the community, state, and nation. Generally, it presents far reaching effects that cut across social, financial and political dimensions of the society. Family planning is particularly a problem in poorer families, low income groups and developing parts of the world. It is also an integral part of maternal health, basic human right to choose and women empowerment in general. According to WHO, family planning allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children as well as the spacing and timing of their births. This is achieved by the use of contraceptives, whether traditional ones like withdrawal and rhythm methods or modern contraceptive methods which may involve birth control pills, condoms, insertion of a diaphragm or an IUD and castration or vasectomy. Even though these methods are aimed at avoiding pregnancy, post conception ways and acts of terminating pregnancy such as abortion are not part of family planning. Despite being legal in many countries, including Canada, the 1994 United Nations summit in Cairo still rules out abortion as part of family planning.

As an important public health issue, it is pertinent that doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care workers educate the public and provide necessary expert advice on the contraceptive options available. The importance of family planning cannot be overemphasized because the right to choose birth times allows women to be free to pursue their career or academic goals which in turn improves their feeling of wellbeing, empowers them to make better choices about how to plan and live their lives as well as increases their economic significance to the society. Families may also choose to have a particular number of children or even temporarily delay childbirth if there are important financial stressors which would actually improve the quality of life. Also, contraceptives like condoms are an integral part of safe sex practices which have helped reduce the incidence of AIDS and STIs among sexually active people like teenagers or extramarital affairs that are not considered to be planning a family.

Evaluations have revealed a decline in infant mortality and adolescent pregnancies in areas with better family planning access, awareness and education. On a larger scale, some governments mandate family planning for national planning and population control like China’s One Child Rule policy. Family planning, despite all its merits has met some stubborn challenges. Several issues influenced by maternal age and health such as the risk of down syndrome and other chromosomal disorders, tumours, gestational diabetes and even emergency life threatening conditions like eclampsia have been identified. Additional issues reported include deficiencies with the method of contraception such as irregular periods and infections from implant. There are also cultural and religious hindrances to virtually all forms of modern contraceptive use especially in communities with more cultural and religious influence on individuals. Perhaps the most modifiable limitation of family planning is coverage and accessibility which healthcare providers and governments can tackle by creating more awareness through outreach and educational programmes to promote, emphasize and nail in its importance.

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