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World Population Day: Safe, voluntary family planning

11 Jul 2017

From 1989, 11th July has been recognised as World Population Day, a day dedicated to thinking about population issues. This year, the day coincides with the Family Planning Summit and the second meeting for the Family Planning 2020, an initiative to increase access to family planning. This determined this year’s theme of ‘Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations’. In recognition of this, we looked through the recommended research on F1000Prime and share with you some articles on improving reproductive health and advance contraceptive use.

A Human Right

It is a human right to access safe, voluntary family planning, but there is an unmet demand for contraceptives, with millions of women either lacking access to information or services, or do not feel they have reproductive control. Caroline Moreau, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Faculty Member on F1000Prime, focuses on advancing the understanding of contraceptive use patterns over time and their association with unintended pregnancies and abortion rates among all women and teenage populations.

She has recommended reproductive health articles, including a qualitative study, published in Contraception, that assessed women’s intentions when it came to pregnancy, including planning and contraception. The researchers found that women do not always perceive they have reproductive control. Moreau said: “The study provides further insights on the mechanisms informing and linking pregnancy intentions, pregnancy planning and contraceptive behaviours, highlighting the importance of reproductive coercion, agency over reproductive outcomes and social opportunities in this process.”

Women-centred approach

Another recommendation, published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, from Caroline Moreau, questions reproductive life planning for women, suggesting that the current ‘planned structure’ is limiting, and it is time to rethink the paradigm to adopt a ‘women centred approach’. Moreau concludes: “From a public health perspective, integration of indicators exploring women’s emotional response and anticipated acceptability of a pregnancy may better discern the medical and social sequelae of undesired pregnancies.” Such an approach would allow women to accept pregnancy in the context of their own lives and counselling on contraception and pregnancy preparedness could be tailored to the individual.

The benefit of free tests

A total of 25% married women in Eastern Madagascar reported an unmet need for family planning, so a randomized controlled trial was implemented in three regions in Madagascar, where health workers provided free urine pregnancy test kits. This was the first time the impact of giving free urine pregnancy tests in low-resource setting had been quantified. Charles Morrison and Dominika Fiolna, FHI 360, US, recommended the community based distribution programme, published in Contraception, explaining: “The World Health Organization’s recommendation that health workers determine a woman’s pregnancy status before offering her hormonal contraceptives poses a barrier to contraceptive access for some women. Community health workers in countries like Madagascar lack a reliable way to determine a client’s pregnancy status.”

The researchers suggest that the low-cost pregnancy tests be included in health care workers services, since they found that it increased modern contraceptive uptake, with a 26% increase in the monthly number of new hormonal contraceptive clients per health worker.

Family Planning Summit

Today, policymakers, donors and advocates from around the world have gathered in London to ensure that more women and girls around the world are able to plan their families and their futures. You can watch the sessions live and follow the activity on social media via #HerFuture.


Click here to view the full article which appeared in F1000 Research