1.4.2  Benefits of family planning

Social and economic benefits

Family planning reduces health risks to women and gives them more control over their reproductive lives. With better health and greater control over their lives, women can take advantage of education, employment and civic opportunities. Families with fewer children are often able to send those children to school so girls get a chance to attain higher education, and as an outcome, the age of their first marriage is often later and their years of fertility reduced. They also benefit from being an employee.

In addition, it is not difficult for parents to clothe and feed their children if they can limit their family size. The expenses that they need to care for a small-sized family will be less, so they can save more and be self-sufficient. With regard to social services, both the government and the family invest less if the family and population size is small. This can help save essential resources and thereby contribute to the economic growth of the nation as a whole.

A happy family standing together.
Figure 1.2  A happy family.

In general, having a larger proportion of well-educated, healthy, productive and self-sufficient families can (Figure 1.2) contribute a great deal to the sustainable development of a country. In this regard, the social and economic benefits of the family are essential.

Health benefits to the mother

Contraceptive use reduces maternal mortality and improves women’s health by preventing unwanted and high-risk pregnancies and reducing the need for unsafe abortions. Some contraceptives also improve women’s health by reducing the likelihood of disease transmission and protecting against certain cancers and health problems.

Avoiding too early and too late pregnancies: Family planning helps mothers avoid pregnancy when they are vulnerable because of their youth or old age. The risk of having pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure) is much higher in younger mothers. On the other hand, older mothers, who have given birth to 5 or more children, have a tendency to uterine rupture during labour, which can cause severe vaginal bleeding and shock. In places where emergency obstetric care facilities are lacking, these two consequences of age have been leading causes of maternal deaths.

Limiting the number of pregnancies: Once the desired number of children has been achieved, a woman can avoid further pregnancy by using family planning methods. Any pregnancy and birth equal to, or higher than, five can have greater risks for the mother. The risk of dying from multiparity (giving birth more than once) increase for a woman who has given birth to five or more children; her risk is 1.5 to 3 times higher than those who have given birth to two to three children.

Preventing abortion: Most abortions result from unwanted pregnancy, and significant numbers of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion induced by untrained practitioners. In Addis Ababa, abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal death. Family planning helps mothers prevent such unwanted pregnancies.

Benefits to the children

Together with other health services, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia management, the nutrition programme and the expanded programme on immunization, family planning directly contributes to the improvement of children’s health and growth. It also indirectly contributes to children’s wellbeing and development by improving maternal health. Adequately spaced children can be wellfed and healthier than closely spaced children. Mothers can have ample time and good health to care for their children. Parents should be able to seek healthcare for them without being constrained.

1.4  Family planning and its benefits

1.5  Family planning programme in Ethiopia