Contraception is not just an effective tool for family planning, it also plays a pivotal role in averting maternal mortality and ensuring a woman’s health. The World Health Organization says it is vital to prevent unwanted pregnancies to reduce maternal mortality (death during pregnancy and childbirth). And family planning is recognised as an important pillar of safe motherhood.

A Union Health Ministry report points out that if the current unmet need for family planning can be fulfilled over the next five years and coupled with the availability of safe abortion services, it will help avert nearly 35,000 maternal deaths and 1.2 million infant deaths.

First pregnancy

By delaying the first pregnancy until a woman is at least 21 years old and waiting two to three years after childbirth before planning another baby can significantly improve health outcomes. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services and quality post-abortion care. 

Today, several contraceptive methods are available to couples to suit their contraception needs, lifestyles and preferences. To avert pregnancy for a short period various temporary modern contraceptives are available. These include condoms and pills. Couples who wish to prevent pregnancy for longer can choose long-acting reversible contraceptives. Some innovative options include injectables, intra-uterine devices and sub-dermal implants.

Enabling ecosystem

Due to socio-cultural barriers, women often shy away from seeking information on contraceptive methods and understanding their benefits. Women need an enabling ecosystem that respects their choices and enables them to adopt a contraceptive method appropriate for them. 

The way forward is to engage in open conversation with one’s partners and health service providers on the choices available. Consciously choosing a contraceptive method with the objective of family planning improves how couples live. This, in turn, impacts the family’s overall quality of life and contributes to the community and society.

(The writer is President, Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI). Views are personal.)