News / Health

New Contraception Guidelines Issued

In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, migrant villagers gather to attend the awareness and service camp under National Rural Health Mission at a very remote Baralakhaiti village on the sandbars of River Brahmaputra, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Gauhati, India.
In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, migrant villagers gather to attend the awareness and service camp under National Rural Health Mission at a very remote Baralakhaiti village on the sandbars of River Brahmaputra, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Gauhati, India.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on WHO contraception guidelines

Joe DeCapua
The World Health Organization says human rights must be respected and protected when women seek contraception services. The WHO has issued new guidelines for policymakers and healthcare providers in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8.


The WHO estimates over 220 million women are not able to meet their needs for modern contraception. It says many are among the most vulnerable, including the poor, those living with HIV and women displaced by conflict or other causes.

Dr. Marleen Temmerman is an obstetrician and director of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research.

“It’s the first time that there is a guidance from the WHO where human rights is actually in the title – and not only in the title, but also in the content of the guidelines. We have guidelines for contraceptive use from the medical perspective looking at what is safe – what are the medical eligibility criteria – what [are] the contraindications and so on. But now we have worked towards ensuring human rights in the contraceptive guidelines,” she said.

The WHO has been developing the guidelines for the past year.

“We want to make sure that the human rights principles, such as acceptability, accessibility, affordability, choice, informed consent are high in the guidelines,” she said.

The guidelines recommend providing sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls, including family planning information and contraceptive methods.

Dr. Temmerman said that access to contraception has risen on the political agenda in recent years.

“If you look at the Millennium Development Goals, number five is to reduce maternal mortality. And that of course is linked to better care, better antenatal care, better delivery care, but also to the rights of a woman to decide when she will get pregnant – how many children she wants.”

She said millions of women must seek permission of their husbands to use contraception, while adolescent girls need permission from their parents or guardians. Many adolescent boys also lack access to modern contraception.

Temmerman said women and girls often have no power in deciding whether to become pregnant.

“Many women are coerced in their decision to be pregnant or not to be pregnant by their family, their father, the mother, the husband, the mother-in-law, the society, the community, by cultural and religious obstacles. But sometimes also by the governments, who are forcing tubal ligation, forcing sterilization onto some women and not giving access to others,” she said.

She added that teenage girls – who become pregnant – may face severe risks. The WHO estimates 16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth each year. Nearly all the births are in low and middle income countries.

“We see a lot of pregnancy complications in adolescents that are really leading to a lot of mortality and morbidity, so a huge health burden,” said Temmerman.

The WHO reports some of the problems associated with negative outcomes for adolescent pregnancies include hemorrhaging, obstetric fistula, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and mental disorders, such as depression.

Dr. Temmerman said countries where women and girls have access to modern contraception often fare better overall than countries that do not.

“I think what we have to do is to look at statistics. Those countries -- which are providing sexuality education and information to the population and to the youth in the schools – those countries which are providing adolescents and women-friendly services – have the lowest figures of unwanted pregnancies, maternal mortality and so on. So, health wise they do much better.”

She said besides the health benefits of investing in reproductive services, countries benefit economically by having a more productive workforce.

The new WHO guidelines say sexual and reproductive health services should help ensure “fully-informed decision-making and respect dignity, autonomy, privacy and confidentiality and be sensitive to individual needs.”

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More