Simply put, family planning means using birth control to make decisions about reproduction – whether to have children, when to have them, and how many to have. We make these decisions every day, whether it is a teenager who is having sex but doesn’t want to get pregnant so chooses to use a condom, or a couple who wants to wait to have children until they are financially prepared or finished with their educations.
Why does it matter?
We know that family planning is a critical way to save the lives of moms and babies during childbirth. A child born to a mother under the age of 20, when her body isn’t ready, is much more likely to have a low birthweight and even die during the first 28 days of life. Birth control access for teenagers can ensure that pregnancy only happens when they are ready and that both teen girls and babies are given their very best chance for survival.
We also know that family planning can help keep girls in school. Around the world, many teenagers drop out of school because they got pregnant, often when they didn’t mean to. If we can arm these girls with the information and tools they need to decide when they want to get pregnant, they have a better chance of finishing high school.
The power of family planning
Sometimes we don’t realize it, but family planning can be empowering. It allows couples to decide what their childbearing will look like for themselves.
However, it isn’t always possible to make these choices.
The Universal Access Project recently took a trip to Uganda, where nearly 80% of the population is under 30 years old. Many of these young people have grown up hearing myths about birth control, such as “an IUD will give you cancer.” Often supplies aren’t easy to access – many people have to sit in the hot sun for hours to get an appointment to learn more about their birth control options.
By age 18, almost a quarter of all women in Uganda are pregnant or have given birth, which means that their chance of finishing school and pursuing their dreams is in jeopardy.
In Uganda, we met a wide variety of people who had just started to use birth control for the first time. One man who had 27 children wanted his own daughter to learn about IUDs and the pill. We also met a woman who had her first child at 15 and wanted to wait until she was 25 and finished with university to have her second.
Family planning is an important way for these people – and everyone around the world – to be empowered to make decisions for themselves.
225 million around the world want to access birth control but can’t. Join us in changing that.
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Read stories from health workers about why family planning matters on the FP Voices blog.