Tagged: contraception

  • Family planning: A look at the past, the present and the future

    In 1971, the world was a different place demographically. Our planet was mostly agrarian, family sizes were large and birth control was unavailable. That year, FHI 360’s heritage organization, the International Fertility Research Program, was created to perform clinical trials of emerging contraceptive technologies, such as oral hormonal contraception and intrauterine devices (IUDs). These studies helped jump-start global family planning programs, creating health services for women where none had previously existed.

    1994: Setting a new agenda

    Fast forward to 1994, the year of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). This pivotal global event caused a seismic shift in family planning, from concern about population growth to a commitment to reproductive rights and justice. Women’s empowerment took center stage. Issues related to sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV, were folded into the sexual and reproductive health agenda.

    The ICPD also strengthened voluntary family planning as a fundamental human right. This enabled women and couples to determine the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. With control over their fertility, women improved both their personal health and their career aspirations. Family size preferences decreased, and the demand for more effective, longer-acting contraception increased.

    Family planning drives development

    Today, the shift from larger to smaller families represents one of the most important transformations in developing regions. This shift was made possible in large part by the increased availability of modern contraception. Demographers have traditionally defined “modern” as any method other than “traditional” (for example, natural family planning and withdrawal). During the past two decades, evidence has demonstrated the contributions that family planning can make to global health and development, including progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

    Continue reading

  • Reducing unmet need for family planning — one woman at a time

    Albertine,* a 34-year-old mother of five, was determined to get a long-acting family planning method. Because she lives in a remote part of Benin, a country of around 9 million in West Africa, she needed to travel many kilometers in the hot sun with her youngest child on her back to reach a health facility that provides contraceptives. Although she lives in an area where less than 1 percent of women use a modern family planning method, a community health worker had counseled and referred her to the health facility using a mobile phone-based tool (a service provided through the PRISE-C project, which is supported by University Research Co., LLC’s Center for Human Services and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development).

    Once she reached the health facility, Albertine insisted on getting what she called “the five-year method,” the two-rod Jadelle implant that is effective for five years of continuous use. She waited until the late afternoon — when the day’s immunization services were complete — before the midwife could see her. In a scene not uncommon in rural settings, Albertine lay across a small exam table and nursed her son on her right side while the midwife swabbed her left arm, injected the anesthesia, positioned the trocar and inserted the rods one by one. When the insertion was complete, Albertine smiled, took her implant card, and said she would be back in five years for another one!

    Continue reading

  • Family Planning, Injectable Contraceptives and the Community Health Worker

    Family planning can have remarkable effects on women, children and families. When women are able to decide how many children to have and when, they are more able to meet their own educational, health and economic goals. Planning the number and timing of pregnancies also allows women to plan their finances and invest in the children they have. Unfortunately, not every woman has access to the contraception necessary to decide when to have children and how many to have. Perhaps the answer lies in an expanded role for community-based health workers.

    Many governments and nongovernmental organizations have turned to community-based family planning programs to expand access to contraceptives.These distribution programs have been credited with advancing family planning endeavors in otherwise underserved areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Despite the progress made there is room for improvement. One challenge community health workers encounter is the fact that, while national policies in many countries permit community health workers to provide condoms and oral contraceptives, they are not allowed to administer injectable contraceptives. This is particularly problematic in sub-Saharan Africa, where injectable contraceptives are a preferred method of contraception for women.

    Continue reading

  • New Contraceptive Approaches Needed Now More Than Ever

    World Contraception Day 2012 (September 26) has come and gone, and 2012 marked the first International Day of the Girl Child. Together with the excitement from the London Summit on Family Planning this summer and the recent announcement of a major price drop for the contraceptive implant, Jadelle, it has been a banner year for media attention, political will and global resources on family planning and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment. As part of these efforts, increasing access to safe, effective and affordable contraceptives will have a profound impact on the lives and health of women and their families throughout the world. To achieve the ambitious goals set forth by these international initiatives, however, the global health and development community must act on the current political momentum and not lose sight of the challenges that remain.

    The task ahead is large. Over 220 million women living in low-resource countries do not want to become pregnant and yet are not using an effective contraceptive method. This may seem strange when we have so many contraceptive choices available to prevent unintended pregnancy. However, not only is access to contraception limited for many of these women, but also the currently available methods do not always meet their needs, preferences or budgets. Approximately two-thirds of all women with an unmet need do not use modern contraception for reasons including side effects, perceived harm to health and desire to preserve future fertility. Along with our current method mix, we need to consider new contraceptive approaches that address these concerns.

    Continue reading