Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 17: Family Planning

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HealthWiki > A Book for Midwives > Chapter 17: Family Planning


Having the number of children you want, when you want them, is called family planning. It is also sometimes called child spacing. There are many methods, both traditional and modern, that can be used for family planning. Family planning methods are sometimes called birth control or contraception.

Why might a woman and a man want to use family planning?

  • to take time to finish their education or have an income before they have children
  • to allow a couple of years between their children
  • to have only as many children as they feel they can support
  • to avoid a risky pregnancy, for example if the woman has a certain illness, or is under 17 and does not have a fully formed pelvis

Childbirth should not be dangerous, but in places where women are poor, are not well fed, and do not have access to good health care, many women die because of heavy bleeding and other childbirth complications. A woman may want to protect herself by limiting the number of her pregnancies.

All women have the right to decide whether to have children and how many children to have. However, most women face barriers to this choice. Midwives can help women have more choices:

  • by learning about family planning and sharing the information.
  • by working with others to give couples more choices of family planning methods.
  • by working with the community to get men more involved in using family planning.


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