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      Women's growing desire to limit births in sub-Saharan Africa: meeting the challenge

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          Abstract

          Contrary to conventional wisdom, many sub-Saharan African women—often at young ages—have an unmet need for family planning to limit future births, and many current limiters do not use the most effective contraceptive methods. Family planning programs must improve access to a wide range of modern contraceptive methods and address attitudinal and knowledge barriers if they are to meet women's needs.

          Abstract

          Contrary to conventional wisdom, many sub-Saharan African women—often at young ages—have an unmet need for family planning to limit future births, and many current limiters do not use the most effective contraceptive methods. Family planning programs must improve access to a wide range of modern contraceptive methods and address attitudinal and knowledge barriers if they are to meet women's needs.

          ABSTRACT

          Demographic and Health Survey data from 18 countries were analyzed to better understand the characteristics of women wishing to limit childbearing. Demand for limiting (14% of all women) is less than that that for spacing (25%) but is still substantial. The mean “demand crossover age” (the average age at which demand to limit births begins to exceed demand to space) is generally around age 33, but in some countries it is as low as 23 or 24. Young women often intend to limit their births, contrary to the assumption that only older women do. Large numbers of women have exceeded their desired fertility but do not use family planning, citing fear of side effects and health concerns as barriers. When analysis is restricted to married women, demand for limiting nearly equals that for spacing. Many women who want no more children and who use contraception, especially poor women and those with less education, use less effective temporary contraceptive methods. A sizable number of women in sub-Saharan Africa—nearly 8 million—have demand for limiting future births. Limiting births has a greater impact on fertility rates than spacing births and is a major factor driving the fertility transition. Family planning programs must prepare to meet this demand by addressing supply- and demand-side barriers to use. Meeting the growing needs of sub-Saharan African women who want to limit births is essential, as they are a unique audience that has long been overlooked and underserved.

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          Most cited references 14

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          Family planning: the unfinished agenda.

          Promotion of family planning in countries with high birth rates has the potential to reduce poverty and hunger and avert 32% of all maternal deaths and nearly 10% of childhood deaths. It would also contribute substantially to women's empowerment, achievement of universal primary schooling, and long-term environmental sustainability. In the past 40 years, family-planning programmes have played a major part in raising the prevalence of contraceptive practice from less than 10% to 60% and reducing fertility in developing countries from six to about three births per woman. However, in half the 75 larger low-income and lower-middle income countries (mainly in Africa), contraceptive practice remains low and fertility, population growth, and unmet need for family planning are high. The cross-cutting contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals makes greater investment in family planning in these countries compelling. Despite the size of this unfinished agenda, international funding and promotion of family planning has waned in the past decade. A revitalisation of the agenda is urgently needed. Historically, the USA has taken the lead but other governments or agencies are now needed as champions. Based on the sizeable experience of past decades, the key features of effective programmes are clearly established. Most governments of poor countries already have appropriate population and family-planning policies but are receiving too little international encouragement and funding to implement them with vigour. What is currently missing is political willingness to incorporate family planning into the development arena.
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            Family planning in sub-Saharan Africa: progress or stagnation?

            OBJECTIVE: To review progress towards adoption of contraception among married or cohabiting women in western and eastern Africa between 1991 and 2004 by examining subjective need, approval, access and use. METHODS: Indicators of attitudes towards and use of contraception were derived from Demographic and Health Surveys, which are nationally representative and yield internationally comparable data. Trends were examined for 24 countries that had conducted at least two surveys between 1986 and 2007. FINDINGS: In western Africa, the subjective need for contraception remained unchanged; about 46% of married or cohabiting women reported a desire to stop and/or postpone childbearing for at least two years. The percentage of women who approved of contraception rose from 32 to 39 and the percentage with access to contraceptive methods rose from 8 to 29. The proportion of women who were using a modern method when interviewed increased from 7 to 15% (equivalent to an average annual increase of 0.6 percentage points). In eastern African countries, trends were much more favourable, with contraceptive use showing an average annual increase of 1.4 percentage points (from 16% in 1986 to 33% in 2007). CONCLUSION: In western Africa, progress towards adoption of contraception has been dismally slow. Attitudinal resistance remains a barrier and access to contraceptives, though improving, is still shockingly limited. If this situation does not change radically in the short run, the United Nations population projections for this subregion are likely to be exceeded. In eastern Africa, the prospects for a future decline in fertility are much more positive.
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              On Postponement and Birth Intervals

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Glob Health Sci Pract
                Glob Health Sci Pract
                ghsp
                ghsp
                Global Health, Science and Practice
                Global Health: Science and Practice
                2169-575X
                March 2013
                21 March 2013
                : 1
                : 1
                : 97-107
                Affiliations
                [a ]Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs , Baltimore, MD, USA
                [b ]EngenderHealth , New York, NY, USA
                [c ]International Health and Development Consultant
                Author notes
                Correspondence to Lynn Van Lith ( lvanlith@ 123456jhuccp.org )
                Article
                GHSP-D-12-00036
                10.9745/GHSP-D-12-00036
                4168554
                © Van Lith et al.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly cited. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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