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Postpartum family planning services should be a top reproductive health priority

December 11, 2015

Approximately one-quarter of inter-birth intervals in low- and middle-income countries are less than 24 months in length, exposing infants to risks of prematurity, low birthweight, and death. Increased evidence of these health risks has emerged in the past few decades and, after a period of neglect, interest in postpartum family planning has followed, supported by organizations like WHO and USAID.

How successful have interventions and projects to improve postpartum contraceptive uptake been? A new study published in Studies in Family Planning as part of the December special issue "Postpartum and Post-Abortion Contraception: From Research to Programs" analyzes data from 35 studies (19 of which were not included in earlier reviews) to address this important question, and identifies program implications and future research priorities.

Key findings include that counseling before discharge from a maternity unit likely has an impact on subsequent contraceptive use and that the integration of family planning into immunization and pediatric services is justified (despite few programs offering these services).

The case can also be made for relaxing the strict conditions for LAM (the Lactational Amenorrhea Method based on the premise that breastfeeding interferes with the release of the hormones needed to trigger ovulation) to be considered an effective postpartum contraceptive method.

The authors note: "In view of the findings, the ideal strategy is to incorporate contraceptive advice and services across the continuum of reproductive healthcare." Four types of interventions are analyzed--antenatal, postnatal, combined ante- and postnatal, and integration with other services--and a range of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are included.
-end-
The study's authors are John Cleland, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Iqbal H. Shah, Harvard School of Public Health; and Marina Daniele, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The article, "Interventions to Improve Postpartum Family Planning in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Program Implications and Research Priorities," is included in the December 2015 issue of Studies in Family Planning.

Citation

Please cite "Studies in Family Planning, a journal of the Population Council" as the source of this story and include a hyperlink to the research study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1728-4465.2015.00041.x/abstract.

About the Journal

Studies in Family Planning is a peer-reviewed, international journal publishing public health, social science, and biomedical research on sexual and reproductive health, fertility, and family planning, with a primary focus on developing countries. Contact sfp@popcouncil.org.

About the Population Council

The Population Council conducts biomedical, social science, and public health research. We deliver solutions that lead to more effective policies, programs, and technologies that improve lives around the world.

Population Council Journals

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