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Family Planning

At the level of the family, family planning implies having only the desired number of children. Thus family planning implies both limitations of the family to a number considered appropriate to the resources of the family as well as proper spacing between the children.

As a social movement family planning implies an organized effort by a group of people to initiate change in the childbearing practices of the people by creating a favorable atmosphere. The birth control movement as it was initially called aimed at relieving women of excessive child bearing and was seen as a way of achieving the emancipation of women through the right of self-determination.

A family planning programme involves a coordinated group of activities maintained over a period of time and aimed at fostering a change in the childbearing behavior of the females. The aim of the family planning programme may either be to improve the health status of women and their children and or of reducing the birth rate and thus reducing the population growth rate of the country. Most countries with a population control policy also emphasize the health aspects of family planning.

The various components of the family planning programmes are –

  • Information, education and communication activities
  • Contraceptives, supplies and services
  • Training of personnel
  • Research
  • Administrative infrastructure

When the government concerns itself with promoting the total welfare of the family and the community through family planning, the programme consists of a wide range of activities covering education, health, maternity and childcare, family planning and nutrition.

There are many barriers to family planning in India. The methods are not always acceptable because of the possible side effects, perceived unaesthetic attributes or the discipline their use demands. All methods are not equally effective. While sterilization male and female can be considered one hundred percent effective a method like IUD is considered to be 95% effective and the conventional contraceptive like the condom is considered to be only 50% effective. Oral pills are almost 100% effective but their effectiveness depends on taking them regularly and on following a certain regime. The easy availability of supplies and services is a necessary condition for the practice or adoption of family planning. When supplies and services are not easily available it becomes difficult for people to practice or adopt family planning even when they are inclined to do so.

In the absence of family planning women are tied down to child bearing and child rearing for the best years of their productive lives. They are denied the opportunity to explore other avenues for self-expression and self-development. This could lead to frustration as excessive child bearing affects their own health and that of their children. Looking after a large number of children puts a further strain on the physical and emotional resources of such women. The children often unwanted and neglected are left to their own devices to make life unbearable. Indulgence in delinquency is sometimes the result. The children in large families often have to start working at a very early age to supplement the slender financial resources of the family. They are denied the opportunity to go to school and get educated. The girl child is the worst sufferer. She is often not sent to school at all or is withdrawn from school at an early age to help her mother in carrying out domestic chores and to look after her younger siblings when the mother is at work. Early marriages push her into child bearing and the vicious cycle continues. Happy and healthy families are the very foundation on which a healthy society is built. Excessive fertility as one of the factors leading to family unhappiness and ill health needs to be curbed in order to build up a healthy society.