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Facts for Life

Timing Births

Supporting Information

4.

Family planning services provide men and women of childbearing age with the knowledge and the means to plan when to begin having children, how many to have, how far apart to have them and when to stop. There are many safe, effective and acceptable methods of planning for and avoiding pregnancy.

Trained health workers and clinics should offer information and advice to empower women to make decisions about family planning and to help women and men choose a family planning method that is acceptable, safe, convenient, effective and affordable.

Trained health workers and clinics should also provide adolescent girls and boys with reproductive health information and family planning services that are (1) sensitive to adolescents and (2) geared to help them develop their skills to make healthy and responsible life decisions.

Special channels to reach out to adolescent girls and pregnant adolescents need to be developed to provide them with the support which may include counselling, contraceptives, and prenatal and post-natal services. Pregnant adolescents require special attention and more frequent visits to the health clinic for prenatal and post-natal care.

Adolescent boys and men can play a key role in preventing unplanned (unintended) pregnancies. It is important that they have access to information and services related to sexual and reproductive health.

The more formal education an adolescent girl or woman has, the more likely she is to use reliable family planning methods, delay marriage and childbearing, be better off economically and have fewer and healthier babies. Enrolling and keeping girls in school is therefore extremely important for maternal and child health, in addition to all the other benefits of education.

Of the various contraceptive methods, only condoms protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

It is critical to educate adolescent boys, young men and men on their responsibility regarding condom use. Adolescent girls and boys, married or unmarried, need to know about the dual protection of a condom and another kind of contraception (using two methods of contraception at the same time) to help avoid pregnancy and prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

In some countries, deaths related to abortion are high among adolescent girls. Adolescent girls, young women and their partners should be provided with information on pregnancy prevention and the risks associated with abortion.

A mother who feeds her baby only with breastmilk, on demand day and night during the baby's first six months, can delay the return of menstruation and help prevent pregnancy. There is a small chance that she can become pregnant before her periods return. The risk is less than 2 per cent, which is similar to that of other family planning methods. However, this risk increases after six months.