Family Planning in the 21st Century – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms Fatima Farooq, a 4th year medical student from Pakistan. It is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong strictly to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFMSA on the subject, nor that of The European Sting.

Family planning is a way of thinking and living that is voluntarily adopted on the basis of knowledge, attitudes and responsible decisions by couples and individuals to limit or space the number of children through the use of methods contraceptives. It deals with the reproductive health of the mother, adequate birth spacing, avoiding unwanted pregnancies and abortions, preventing sexually transmitted diseases and improving the quality of life of the mother, fetus and of the family as a whole.

According to 2017 estimates, 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions have an unmet need for contraception. Reasons for this include:

  • limited access to contraception
  • a fear or experience of side effects
  • cultural or religious opposition
  • poor quality of services available
  • gender-based barriers

It is important that family planning be widely available and easily accessible through trained health workers to anyone who is sexually active, including adolescents. There are many cadres of health workers who are trained to provide (when permitted) locally available and culturally acceptable contraceptive methods, including doctors and midwives. Other trained health workers, such as community health workers, also provide counseling and some family planning methods, such as pills and condoms. For methods such as sterilization, both women and men should be referred to a clinician.

WHO has developed recommendations on the types of health workers who can safely and effectively provide specific family planning methods. WHO based these recommendations on evidence that a wide variety of providers can provide contraception safely and effectively. Contraception in the simplest terms is the prevention of pregnancy and contraceptive methods, by definition, are the preventive methods to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies. There are different methods of birth control available. These include:

  • Spacing methods of contraception include IUDs (intrauterine contraceptive devices), OCPs (oral contraceptive pills), condoms, lactational amenorrhea method, etc.
  • Permanent methods of contraception viz. vasectomy and tubal ligation are usually available at the primary health center level or above. They are provided by MBBS doctors or gynecologists who have been trained to provide the services.

Comprehensive sexuality education is learning that begins in early childhood and continues throughout life, about the physical, emotional, mental and social aspects of reproductive and sexual health and rights, including sexuality and relationships. Comprehensive sexuality education builds on and promotes an understanding of universal human rights, including the rights of women and girls, and the rights of all to equal access to health, education and information and without discrimination.3 As a foundation for exercising reproductive rights, comprehensive sex education includes information on access to family planning services, the right to choose whether or not to have children, and the right to freely decide the number, timing and spacing of these children. These services can be provided by medical students trained to adolescents by conducting family planning talks and activities in educational institutions, neighborhoods, etc.


About the Author

Mrs. Fatima Farooq is a member of IFMSA and a 4th year medical student from Pakistan.

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