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Why Planned Parenthood Matters?

Have you ever wondered what the world population and quality of life would be if couples do not practice planned parenthood or family planning? Let us look at some statistics.

2000 years ago, the world population was about 300 million. 150 years later, the world population reached 1.7 billion. On 12 October 1999, there were 6 billion people on earth. By the year 2150, the population is projected to be 9.7 billion. The rapid population growth can be slowed down through planned parenthood. Planned parenthood, a key element in sustainable development is also one of the best and most cost-effective investments that can be made to ensure the health and well being of women, children and communities.

For more than 50 years, planned parenthood has been advocated and recognized as a basic human right whereby couples and individuals can decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children through the use of contraceptives.

Globally as many as 600 million people use contraceptives. Contraceptives provide a safe and effective way to regulate fertility and safeguard health. A comprehensive range of methods is available – permanent and reversible, long - acting and short - acting, and methods for women and men. These methods can be broadly categorized into hormonal methods, barrier methods such as condoms, mechanical method eg. the intrauterine device (IUD) and surgical method eg. sterilization, which includes tubal ligation for females and vasectomy for males. There are also chemical methods like spermicides.

In many countries the hormonal contraceptives are the most popular method, the oral pill, injectables and norplants. They contain either estrogen combined with progestin or progestin - only. These hormones either prevent ovulation, the release of the egg from the ovary or thicken the cervical mucus, which decreases or inhibits sperm penetration.

Rapid population growth can have serious impact on the environment and all living things. Land space becomes increasingly limited as human numbers grow. Worldwide, food production needs to double. Industrial output and energy use will increase tremendously thus contributing to environmental damage such global warming, air and water pollution. The standard of living of the people will be affected and their quality of life, greatly reduced.

The positive impact of planned parenthood are proven. Planned parenthood aids to slow world population growth. Slower population growth helps protect the environment. It conserves resources, preserves clean air and water, improves health, eases pressures on cities and helps avoid conflict. The rate of population growth should be in tandem with the capacity of the country/community to provide for a reasonable quality of life of the people, generally determined by the pace of technical advancements and economic growth.

Planned parenthood programmes have helped millions of people, providing reproductive health care that saves lives, avoids unintended pregnancies and offers more choices. Planned parenthood saves women's lives. Providing planned parenthood services to women who want to avoid unintended pregnancies in developing countries is probably saving the life of one woman out of every hundred.

Using contraceptives help avoid unsafe abortions. Worldwide an estimated 46 million induce abortions occur each year and as many as 20 million (over 20 per cent) are unsafe. Planned parenthood also saves children's lives. Spacing children at least two years apart helps women to have healthier children and ensures the infant's survival by about 50%.

Planned parenthood also save costs. For instance, health resources will be needed to treat complications from unsafe abortion such as blood transfusion and drugs. Planned parenthood has enabled women and men to choose the number and timing of their children. Control over their fertility had also enabled women to better education, employment and involvement in community and even politics. This will also reduce gender inequality.

Another positive impact of planned parenthood is that it can help to reduce the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Usage of condoms correctly can protect against STIs and HIV.

Planned parenthood by itself has no proven drawback. Contraceptive methods are generally safe but may have negative effects from person to person depending on their age, health status, lifestyles and effectiveness. Thus appropriate screening and monitoring of such users are necessary.

Contraceptive methods may also cause some side effects, which could make the users feel uncomfortable such as irregular bleeding patterns with injectables and increased menstrual cramping for IUD users. However research has indicated that if users were counselled properly, they could tolerate these side effects which are usually temporary. Overall, the health benefits associated with planned parenthood far outweigh the risks. Generally, governments around the world are responding well to planned parenthood. 179 countries agreed to the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, which supports planned parenthood. However, governments must continue to ensure that legislation, procedures and facilities support people's choice to planned parenthood and that contraceptive services are accessible, affordable and of high quality.

Men have to play a more active role as planned parenthood is not limited to women only. It takes two to plan a family. Thus joint responsibility should become a norm in every home. Young people must also be given education on planned parenthood to prepare them to be responsible adults.

Committing human and financial resources to improving planned parenthood services is the gateway to improving the health and quality of life of women, children and families. It also supports efforts to achieve a sustainable global population. Therefore, planned parenthood does matter as it sustains the population and benefits all.


Reference:
1. World Health Organization (1995) Health Benefits of Family Planning, WHO/FHE/FPP/95.11.
2. Population Reports, Series J, Number 49 (1999) – Why Family Planning Matters.


Writer:
Piaro Kaur
Head, Programme Services, FFPAM



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