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Family planning and health should be given priority
Aishani Gupta | 04 Mar 2011

Family planning and health in India is an issue which not many of us consider important due to our easy access to information on it. We think we all know all about it. But that is the real issue?. What we do not know is how much knowledge is enough?

I WAS browsing the web a few days ago when I came across the website of World Health Organisation. The website is always helpful to have a look at. So I decided to go through the website and look for a topic that has been bothering me for some time now. In one of the publications by WHO titled ‘Health Benefits of Family Planning’, I found what I was looking for.

Family planning and health in India is an issue which not many of us consider important due to our easy access to information on it. We think we all know all about it. But that is the real issue…. What we do not know is how much knowledge is enough? Also, same is not the case with the rural belts of India… which contributes majorly to the chunk of family planning problems and due to that, health problems.

The topic was being discussed in our class a few days ago. Rural people look at it in a different way altogether… They justify producing 11 kids in a single family… Not that they are not aware that more kids means more feeding mouths and hence more burden on family which is already struggling to put together two square meals a day… More kids not only means more helping hands for family in future – that is not the immediate reason as it gives results only when the kids grow up and also if most of them are ‘boys’. The immediate reason is that the more the number of children, more are the chances of their survival. It is amazing how they understand the lack of resources the government has made available to them! They realise that due to poor health facilities, most of the kids produced will die. So, to be on a safer side, they give birth to more number of kids, so that at least, half the number can be nurtured and raised.

What they don’t realise is that it is this lack of planning that is the reason behind the declining health of the mother and the children so produced. Obviously, when births are spaced less than two years apart, particularly less than 18 months, infants are more likely to be premature and have a low birth weight, two factors that lead to increased mortality. Consequently, the family too suffers because of this. To top it all, women are made to give births in a very early age, when they are not mentally and physically fit for it. This happens due to child marriage, which again is a major problem in rural areas… As can be seen, it all forms a vicious circle from which the women find it difficult to free themselves.

WHO studies show that-
  • Each year over 500,000 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth (Maternal Mortality Ratios and Rates, WHO, 1991).
  • Pregnancy is particularly risky to certain groups of women - very young women, older women, women with more than four children, and women with existing health problems. If all high risk pregnancies were prevented, maternal mortality could be reduced by up to 25 per cent (Royston and Armstrong, 1989).
  • The facts and figures are disturbing. But all is still not lost! With a few preventive and responsible steps, the family planning habit can be improved and more wide spread. After all, family planning saves lives and improves health. Contraceptive use reduces maternal mortality and improves women's health by preventing unwanted and high-risk pregnancies and reducing the need for unsafe abortions.
  • Some contraceptives also improve women's health by reducing the likelihood of disease transmission and protecting against certain cancers and health problems.
  • It is estimated that 1,00,000 maternal deaths could be avoided each year if all women who said they want no more children were able to stop childbearing.
  • Achieving adequate birth spacing (more than two years apart) could reduce child death by up to a third in some countries.
  • Families with fewer, healthier children can devote more resources to providing their children with adequate food, clothing, housing and educational opportunities.
  • After all, informed choice is a key element of high quality services and better health of the family and the community at large.