Family Planning

Family planning interventions include using modern contraceptive methods and counseling to space births or to limit the number of children. For many less invasive methods of family planning—pills, condoms, lactational amenorrhea method, and injectables—community health workers and others without a clinical background may be able to provide services. Other methods may require that health care providers have additional training to provide the service, such as implants, intrauterine devices, or sterilization. Delayed pregnancy improves birth outcomes, decreases pregnancy-related anemia risk, and allows women time to build up and maintain stores of iron and other micronutrients to prevent micronutrient deficiencies (K. G. Dewey and Cohen 2007; Conde-Agudelo et al. 2012).

Measurement and data sources

Information related to family planning in surveys typically assesses the percentage of women who are—or whose partners are—using modern or traditional contraception for family planning. Many surveys also collect and analyze information on the unmet need for family planning, distinguishing between women with unmet needs for spacing births and for limiting births, disaggregated by age group.

Surveys that collect information related to family planning include—

  • Demographic and Health Surveys
  • Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys
  • National Micronutrient Surveys
  • Knowledge, Practice, and Coverage Surveys
  • other research or evaluation activities.

Health monitoring information systems may include information on the use of contraceptive methods. Although counseling on family planning is part of the services that are supposed to be provided during antenatal care, routine data collection and reporting on the provision of this service is generally lacking (Dwivedi et al. 2014).

Methodological issues

  • In some countries, questions around family planning pertain only to married or in-union women, which does not address the contraceptive needs of sexually active women who are not in these categories. Surveys that do not include all women of reproductive age may incorrectly estimate the need for family planning—and the unmet need—for unmarried or non-partnered women. When data are available, compare the rates of unmet need for women in both groups.
  • Teenagers, age 15–19 years, often report high levels of unmet need and, also, are often hard to reach through health care services; you may want to report data disaggregated by age.