Family Planning Services and Birth Control

Jessica Morse and Philip D. Darney

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Family Planning Services and Birth Control

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Family planning services and birth control are integral to how families determine the number and timing of their children. The importance of these services is often described from four different perspectives: (1) as a human right; (2) as a means to social and economic development; (3) as a personal and public health issue; and (4) as a population/environment concern. Family planning as a human rights issue is often couched in terms of fundamental human rights to determine one’s own reproductive capacity. It has frequently been linked to a feminist perspective, with control over one’s body as being integral to basic autonomy and equality. Although abortion is an essential part of this, we will not be covering this topic in any detail. (For a more complete understanding, please see the separate article on Abortion.) Especially in the developing world, family planning is closely related to social and economic development, with decreases in family size typically correlating with improved economic and social well-being at both the family and societal level. From a medical standpoint, family planning and birth control are central to women’s basic health care, both as preventive and therapeutic measures. The global burden of maternal mortality would be significantly decreased with provision of comprehensive family planning services, including safe abortion. Given the limited resources of the planet, family planning services and birth control have been championed as effective ways to limit population growth and thereby limit the detrimental impact of overpopulation on the physical environment. The importance of each of these perspectives has waxed and waned through different cultural and political eras, with each offering different justifications for comprehensive family planning services and birth control. Independent of the theoretical background, how family planning services are structured varies broadly. Services typically include counseling and education around reproductive health and family planning, provision of birth control and abortion, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Service delivery can be organized vertically with family planning programs separately administered and provided in specialized clinics or horizontally through integration into other health care. The effectiveness of service provision is often highly dependent on funding, as well as political, cultural, and religious trends. Due to the high personal and public health costs of unintended pregnancies, many efforts have been made to increase access to contraception. Actual method selection should be a patient-driven process, informed by counseling on effectiveness and the patient’s own medical history and risk factors. Public health trends, such as HIV and obesity, influence service provision and method selection at the individual and population level.

Article.  14904 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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