6 Frequently Asked Questions about Family Planning & Reproductive Health

What is reproductive health?

According to the World Health Organization, reproductive health involves the reproductive processes, functions, and system at all stages of a person’s life. Reproductive health care aims to ensure that all individuals have responsible, safe and satisfying sex lives, and can decide if, when and how often to reproduce.

What is “unmet need” for family planning?

Unmet need for family planning is the percentage of sexually active women of reproductive age (15–49 years) who want to stop or delay having children but are not using contraception. Unmet need is highest among adolescents, women after a pregnancy, and urban, migrant and refugee populations. In 2019, of the 923 million women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries who wanted to avoid a pregnancy, 218 million had an unmet need for modern contraception.

What are the effects of unmet need for modern contraceptive methods?

Each year, there are approximately 111 million unintended pregnancies in low- and middle-income countries. Unintended pregnancies can lead to unsafe abortions, poor health outcomes and higher mortality rates among women and newborns. Limiting or spacing pregnancies at least two years apart gives women time to recover from childbirth, and babies get better care and nutrition from healthier moms.

Do family planning methods also protect against HIV?

Male and female condoms are currently the only form of contraception that also protects against HIV infection. However, women who have access to voluntary family planning programs are more likely to take advantage of HIV prevention services. Moreover, integrating these services improves access to quality health care services overall. Multipurpose prevention technologies, such as pills and rings that prevent pregnancy and and HIV transmission in a single product, are under development.

Do men have a role in family planning?

YES! By actively participating in family planning decisions, men can improve health outcomes not only for their partners and families, but also for the community as a whole. Involving men in reproductive health decisions promotes dialogue between couples and is associated with reductions in gender-based violence, better maternal health outcomes, and greater involvement of fathers in their children’s lives.

What do rights have to do with family planning?

All individuals have the right to plan their families. Family planning and reproductive health care can also serve as a pathway to a more just and equitable world. Women with access to modern contraception have greater economic opportunities. They can attend school without interruption, work or start businesses, and take leadership roles in their communities. These benefits extend to their families and beyond, creating stronger societies and more resilient countries. A rights-based family planning program incorporates these principles into its design and implementation.