Reproductive Health / Family Planning
Improving Reproductive Health
The freedom to choose how many children, and when, is a fundamental human right. Better access to safe and affordable contraceptive methods is key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Family planning has proven benefits in terms of gender equality, maternal health, child survival, and preventing HIV. Family planning can also reduce poverty and promote economic growth by improving family well-being, raising female productivity and lowering fertility. It is one of the wisest and most cost-effective investments any country can make towards a better quality of life.
– UNFPA (State of the World Population 2005)
Cultural and informational barriers remain the most significant obstacles to expansion of family planning use, delaying of marriage until adulthood, and spacing of children. While access to family planning services is not perfect, the vast majority of people in developing countries know about family planning and can identify a source of family planning methods, while often only a small percentage are using any method.
PMC’s programs help to bridge this gap by creating character role models whose actions demonstrate the benefits of family planning and improving reproductive health. PMC’s programs have had a significant impact on the number of people seeking family planning and reproductive health services and have created a space in which couples and communities can safely talk about these issues. Read more on PMC’s program in Ethiopia
The consequences of not using family planning and reproductive health and family planning services are grave and diverse. The non-use of contraception in developing countries, for example, results in overpopulation leading to the degradation of the environment and increased civil conflict, exacerbated by the fight over scarce resources. In addition, these burgeoning populations lead to growing communities of young people of reproductive age, many of whom are not able to receive adequate reproductive health care. This then leads to health problems during childbirth, including obstetric fistula, as well as increased rates of maternal, infant, and child mortality and added health problems in newborns. Each year, 529,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 10 million women a year suffer severe or long-lasting illnesses or disabilities.
When women are empowered to control the spacing of their births, they can avoid the stress to their bodies these pregnancies cause. The primary risk factors that lead to obstetric fistula are early and/or closely-spaced pregnancies and lack of access to emergency obstetric care. In this condition, a hole develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina caused by labor that is prolonged – often for days – without treatment. Because the fistula leaves women leaking urine or feces, or both, it often results in social isolation and depression. If left untreated, fistula can lead to chronic health problems. Fistula can be corrected by a simple routine surgery. If women are made aware that this condition is treatable and directed to where they can find treatment, they can go on to live healthy lives and have future pregnancies without complications.
The non-use of reproductive services and contraception also leads to the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. Since the start of the epidemic, over 30 million people have died from AIDS-related causes. Today, 34 million people are living with HIV (2010). Educating populations about the transmission of HIV between sexual partners as well as from mothers to their children, and demonstrating behaviors that can prevent HIV/AIDS and other STIs is a vital part of stemming the spread of these diseases. HIV/AIDS and STIs are entirely preventable. By creating strong positive role models and demonstrating the consequences of “risky” sexual behavior, PMC’s programs help to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs.