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Positives of planning


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Planned families are positive for the entire society and multiple generations and is a critical part of ensuring that women lead healthy and fulfilled lives. 

In Sri Lanka, about 360,000 women become pregnant every year. One out of three of these pregnancies is estimated to be unplanned, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). When a pregnancy is unplanned or unintended, it can be detrimental to the woman and her family, including the expected child and other children, as well as to the health system and society at large. 

In 2017, about 326,000 live births took place in Sri Lanka. Around 49,000 (15%) of the mothers were over 35 years of age, with 127 maternal deaths being reported that year. Out of these maternal deaths, 28 mothers died due to the consequences of having an unplanned pregnancy. In this same year, the number of stillbirths reported was 1,770.

Efficient family planning is the medical recommendation to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Family planning saves lives, however, myths and misconceptions exist regarding the different methods including contraception, and the medical objective of family planning is often misinterpreted. This is why it is of utmost importance that policymakers are privy to the perceptions of key stakeholders regarding family planning services. 

In the recent past, Sri Lanka witnessed communal violence triggered by myths and misconceptions around family planning. This indicates a lack of knowledge among individuals on the critical role that family planning plays in the prevention of unintended pregnancies, reducing maternal deaths and in achieving universal health coverage. 

Every woman has the basic human right to decide whether, when and with whom to have children. This right was reaffirmed in 1994 in Cairo at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where 179 governments – including Sri Lanka – agreed that sexual and reproductive health and women’s empowerment are intertwined, and are at the heart of sustainable development.

According to the Demographic and Health Survey (2016), 35% of married women in Sri Lanka do not use contraception, and teenage pregnancies are at a rate of 4.6% with sub-national disparities of 5-8%. The 2015 National Guidelines on Post-abortion care further highlights that unsafe abortions make up as much as 10-13% of maternal deaths in Sri Lanka.

Family planning saves lives. It can prevent unwanted pregnancies and avert unsafe abortions. Young people in Sri Lanka are sexually active and they should not be prevented from accessing sexual and reproductive health services due to stigma. It is more sensible to make them understand the gravity of what they are engaged in and ensure every young person in Sri Lanka has the knowledge required to make safe and informed choices about their bodies and support to have an open dialog rather than shaming them.

There are many misconceptions around family planning. It must be understood that it is not about population control. Family planning is about empowering women and giving them the choice to take control of their own sexual and reproductive health. Family planning enables women to complete their education and pursue careers, thereby contributing towards a progressive and sustainably developed Sri Lanka. At present the discourse on population numbers is denigrating and misleading because it demonises family planning, which has assisted Sri Lanka to reach better standards of inclusive development.  

 


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