Saturday, May 23, 2009

What is Family Planning and Why is it Important?

In all countries across the world, there are a lot of myths and criticisms that go along with "family planning," but this is especially true in developing countries where people rarely receive advanced education or accurate information in regards to their sexual health and reproduction. One of the leading problems in developing countries is that this lack of information leads to massive families for which parents are unable to provide. Children are frequently undernourished, uneducated, and impoverished as a result of large, unmanageable families.

Family planning encompasses everything from deciding to wait to have sex or deciding to use contraceptives or deciding to have a small family that you can support. Family planning also entails more controversial aspects such as sterilizations and abortion. Often family planning is synonymous with contraception or abortion, but involves many other important aspects that are overlooked because of this misunderstanding. Spacing children is family planning. Sexually transmitted disease testing is family planning. Sexuality education is family planning. Pre-natal visits and parenting programs are also family planning.

It is a growing concern that these misconceptions and false information are the leading causes of child neglect, abandonment, malnourishment, disease and lack of education creating a cycle of suffering and extreme poverty from which it is difficult to break free.

But there is hope for the future. After his holiday visit, one young man from BULA, told me he was concerned about his mother, "She does not know about family planning, and she keeps having babies. Everyone there is suffering, the conditions are bad". Because of good eduction and countless opportunities that have been given to him, he sees the problems of having too many children and not being able to support them. He, like many others young people who I know, is planning on a small, manageable family so all his children can go to school.

Please read the article from the New York Times entitled, "Where Life's Start is a Deadly Risk" about the health risks to women in Africa related to childbirth. More than 500,000 woman die annually due to complications with childbirth, half of which are in Africa; a number that would be significantly lower with increased reproductive education and pre-natal care - two important aspects of family planning.

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