Family planning allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility. A woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being as well as on the outcome of each pregnancy.
At least 200 million women want to use safe and effective family planning methods, but are unable to do so because they lack access to information and services or the support of their husbands and communities. And more than 50 million of the 190 million women who become pregnant each year have abortions. Many of these are clandestine and performed under unsafe conditions.
The need for voluntary family planning is growing fast, and it is estimated that the 'unmet need' will grow by 40 per cent during the next 15 years. But even though it is an economically sound investment, family planning has been losing ground as an international development priority. Funding is decreasing, and the gap between the need and the available resources is growing.
The international community has agreed that reproductive choice is a basic human right. But without access to relevant information and high-quality services, that right cannot be exercised.
Glossary of Key Terms:
Family planning: The planning of when to have children, and the use of birth control and other techniques to implement such plans. Other techniques commonly used include sexuality education, prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections, pre-conception counseling, and management, and infertility management.
Family planning is sometimes used as a synonym for the use of birth control, however, it often includes a wide variety of methods, and practices that are not birth control. It is most usually applied to a female-male couple who wish to limit the number of children they have and/or to control the timing of pregnancy (also known as spacing children). Family planning may encompass sterilization, as well as abortion.
Sexually Transmitted Infections: Infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact.
Contraception: The deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse. The major forms of artificial contraception are barrier methods, of which the most common is the condom; the contraceptive pill, which contains synthetic sex hormones that prevent ovulation in the female; intrauterine devices, such as the coil, which prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus; and male or female sterilization.
Emergency Contraception: Emergency contraception, or post-coital contraception: refers to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy in the first few days after intercourse. It is intended for emergency use following unprotected intercourse, contraceptive failure or misuse (such as forgotten pills or torn condoms), rape or coerced sex.
Quick links and resources
- U.N. Population Fund
- National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
- Department of Health and Human Services, Family planning
- Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal, infant and child health
- Demographic and Health Surveys, Maternal and Infant Health
- Center for Disease Control, National Survey of Family Growth
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Family Planning Annual Reports
- U.N. Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Family Planning
- Department of Health and Human Services, Family Planning Data
- Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal, Infant and Child Health Data