Is 'planning' missing from our family planning services?

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South African Medical Journal

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University of Cape Town

The role of family planning in achieving the Millennium Development Goals is well recognised. The benefits of family planning, in developing countries in particular, extend beyond decreasing fertility and include poverty reduction, improved health for both mother and child, the promotion of gender equality by increasing women's opportunities beyond reproductive and domestic activities, and environmental sustainability. In addition, prevention of undesired pregnancies among HIV-positive women by eliminating unmet need for contraception is a highly cost-effective means of preventing mother-to-child transmission. In South Africa, free contraceptives are available at public sector health care facilities, and contraception use is high: an estimated 65% of sexually active women use a method.3 The method mix comprises predominantly short-acting methods - primarily injectable contraceptives. Long-acting contraceptives, such as the intra-uterine device (IUD), are highly effective among typical users owing to consistency of function, yet are underutilised in South Africa's public sector facilities. Of importance, especially in South Africa's high HIVprevalent setting, is that the IUD can be safely used on clinically well HIV-positive women. The 2004 Demographic and Health Survey showed that 10% of sexually active women were sterilised, while less than 1% of women were using the IUD. In preparation for an intervention aimed at improving contraceptive options, including long-acting and permanent methods (LAPM), for all postpartum women, we assessed women's knowledge and attitudes to LAPM. We report on findings from our baseline survey, which have prompted the question: Where is the 'planning' in family planning services?