“I am 24 years old. I got married at the age of 18. I am 9 months pregnant and this is my second child. We will ride the motorcycle to the hospital when the time comes. It’ll take roughly 30 mins to get to the hospital in town and I ride myself there. My husband is a contractor from another Kampung. I stopped schooling at Standard 5 and I stayed at home after that. My sister doesn’t want children for now. She’s doing family planning, she got to know about it herself and through the nurse and UNFPA‘.
Such is the story shared by a Sarawakian on its encounter with Humans of Kuala Lumpur. Family planning may be the norms to some and a privilege to others. In the depth of Borneo with its accessibility constraints to the healthcare facility, many mothers are either unaware or refused the options of modern contraception altogether. Due to its urgency, the theme “Family Planning is a Human Right” is chosen for the World Population Day theme this year.
World Population Day 2018
World Population Day is a day to focus the world’s attention on the importance of population issues, commemorated on 11th of July every year as recommended by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the International Conference on Human Rights, where family planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a human right. The Tehran Proclamation states, “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”
The population density in Malaysia is 98 people per km2 with a population size that rank 45th in the world. Interestingly, Malaysia is located in one the most populated region in the world which contribute to almost half of the world’s population.
Although Malaysians enjoy a rather average -neither too high nor too low – population density compare to its neighboring countries, family planning is still far lacking behind compare to the global range.
Why family planning matters?
Family planning contributes substantially to the improvement of maternal health, reduction of child mortality, and to eradicate poverty. Evidence-based data confirm the relationship between an increased availability of effective contraception and reduction in the induced abortion rate.
According to the World Health Organization estimates, one-third of 210 million pregnancies that occur each year are unintended. Most of them end in stillbirths, miscarriages, and induced abortions. Five million women are hospitalized each year for treatment of abortion complications such as hemorrhages and sepsis.
In Malaysia, women with the unmet need for family planning, (i.e those who want to stop or delay childbearing but are not using any method of contraception) has increased from 25% to 36% in 2004. This included sexually active teenagers who did not wish to conceive.
Consequently, these unmet need for family planning results in the increasing report of babies ‘abandonment’ in Malaysia. With the latest one of a newborn baby girl was found abandoned in a paper bag hanging from the side mirror of a car in Ipoh.
In a study of teenagers between the ages of 18-21 in Malaysia, around 20% had sex with new partners without using any contraceptive methods. Of the 510462 babies born in the year 2010, there were 52982 out of wedlock pregnancies. These mothers had not used any form of contraceptives.
Although the issue of educating the public on family planning may trigger some debate over the pros and cons of making this knowledge accessible to unmarried sexually active female, the fact is even among married women in Malaysia, the use of the modern contraceptive method is low.
Constraints on family planning in Malaysia
In Malaysia, the contraception prevalence rate in 1966 was 8.8 percent but has increased to 52 percent (including traditional method of contraception) in 1984 thanks to the introduction of the National Family Planning Act. In term of the modern contraceptive method, only 32.3% of women practised it as in 2005-2010.
Unfortunately, the contraceptive use in Malaysia had stagnated to roughly the same percentage since the past 25 years. The Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM) reported that unwanted pregnancies are increasing due to low contraceptive practice among Malaysian women. Reports from Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Death (CEMD) Malaysia 2001–2005 revealed that in up to 70% of the maternal deaths, no form of family planning was practised.
Unsurprisingly, in term of ethnicity, Malays are reported with the lowest percentage in family planning practice in a survey by the National Population and Family Development Board (NPFDB). The east-coast states where Malays make up more than 90% of the population had the lowest usage.
In fact, in a study done in 2014, researchers discovered that Malay women were 92% less likely to use modern contraception as compared to non-Malay women. Ethnicity factor was discovered to be the key influence on the practice of contraceptive compared to financial status or education level.
A support for family planning
Family planning is not a matter of rejecting the natural course of your body, or what has been destined to be. It was simply an option to help you build a healthier and economically stable family. Which in turn will contribute to a better society.
But family planning should not be burdened on women themselves. Societal support is necessary for family planning to succeed. Women who discussed family planning with their spouses were found to be more likely to practice modern contraception than the women who did not. Giving teenagers access to contraceptive knowledge will not going to encourage illicit sexual relationship in itself. Contrarily it will help to curb the staggering numbers of the unwanted child in Malaysia.
The final aim of family planning is not to deny the right to shape your family as you wish. Rather, it was a mission to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled, as outlined by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA Malaysia).
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: July 6, 2018 | Last Modified: July 6, 2018
‘THE PREVALENCE OF FAMILY PLANNING PRACTICE AND ASSOCIATED FACTORS AMONG WOMEN IN SERDANG, SELANGOR’. Accessed 5 July 2018. https://www.mjphm.org.my/mjphm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=653:the-prevalence-of-family-planning-practice-and-associated-factors-among-women-in-serdang-selangor&catid=102:2015-volume-15-3&Itemid=118.
Najafi-Sharjabad, Fatemeh, Hejar Abdul Rahman, Muhamad Hanafiah, and Sharifah Zainiyah Syed Yahya. ‘Spousal Communication on Family Planning and Perceived Social Support for Contraceptive Practices in a Sample of Malaysian Women’. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research 19, no. 7 Suppl 1 (February 2014): S19-27.