Choices for a Healthier Future
In this comprehensive overview, we delve into the world of family planning and contraception methods, shedding light on the vital facts, impacts, barriers, and WHO’s response in promoting universal access. With a focus on young adults, this exploration aims to provide valuable insights for informed decision-making.
Among the 1.9 billion women aged 15–49 worldwide in 2021, a staggering 1.1 billion had a need for family planning. Among these, 874 million were using modern contraceptive methods, while 164 million had an unmet need for contraception (1).
Globally, the proportion of family planning needs met by modern methods stood at 77% from 2015 to 2022. However, it increased from 52% to 58% in sub-Saharan Africa, indicating progress (2).
It’s noteworthy that only condoms offer dual protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Using contraception is not just a matter of choice; it’s a fundamental human right, allowing individuals to determine the number and spacing of their children.
In 2022, the global contraceptive prevalence for any method was estimated at 65%, with modern methods accounting for 58.7% of married or union women (3).
Contraception is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The most suitable method depends on various factors, including overall health, age, sexual activity frequency, number of partners, future family plans, and family medical history. Ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods is not only about choice; it’s about upholding several human rights, including life, liberty, education, and health.
Contraception plays a crucial role in preventing health risks associated with pregnancy, particularly for adolescent girls. Short interbirth intervals can increase infant mortality rates by 60%, emphasizing the importance of family planning (4). Beyond health, it empowers women, boosts education opportunities, and contributes to sustainable economic development.
Over the past two decades, the demand for family planning has risen significantly, from 900 million in 2000 to nearly 1.1 billion in 2021 (1).
Between 2000 and 2020, the number of women using modern contraceptive methods increased from 663 million to 851 million. Projections suggest an additional 70 million women will join by 2030 (5).
Despite progress, barriers to family planning persist. Limited method choices, restricted access (especially among young, poorer, and unmarried individuals), side effects, cultural and religious opposition, and poor service quality hinder progress. Biases, both from users and providers, and gender-based barriers also contribute to the challenge.
Contraceptive options vary widely, including pills, implants, injections, patches, rings, intrauterine devices, condoms, sterilization, lactational amenorrhea, withdrawal, and fertility awareness-based methods. Each method has unique mechanisms and effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancies, ranging from very effective to less effective.
Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services aligns with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s promise of leaving no one behind. Achieving this requires robust support for contraceptive services, encompassing effective government policies and programs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) plays a pivotal role in promoting contraception. It produces evidence-based guidelines on safety and service delivery, focusing on human rights. WHO assists countries in implementing these guidelines, develops new contraceptive technologies, and conducts research to expand access and strengthen contraceptive services.
This comprehensive examination highlights the significance of family planning and contraception in empowering individuals and communities. It emphasizes the importance of informed choices and the critical role of organizations like WHO in ensuring universal access to these essential services.