Women's Growing Desire to Limit Births in Sub-Saharan Africa: Meeting the Challenge

Demographic and Health Survey data from 18 countries were analyzed to better understand the characteristics of women wishing to limit childbearing. Demand for limiting (14% of all women) is less than that that for spacing (25%) but is still substantial. The mean “demand crossover age” (the average age at which demand to limit births begins to exceed demand to space) is generally around age 33, but in some countries it is as low as 23 or 24. Young women often intend to limit their births, contrary to the assumption that only older women do. Large numbers of women have exceeded their desired fertility but do not use family planning, citing fear of side effects and health concerns as barriers. When analysis is restricted to married women, demand for limiting nearly equals that for spacing. Many women who want no more children and who use contraception, especially poor women and those with less education, use less effective temporary contraceptive methods. A sizable number of women in sub-Saharan Africa—nearly 8 million—have demand for limiting future births. Limiting births has a greater impact on fertility rates than spacing births and is a major factor driving the fertility transition. Family planning programs must prepare to meet this demand by addressing supply- and demand-side barriers to use. Meeting the growing needs of sub-Saharan African women who want to limit births is essential, as they are a unique audience that has long been overlooked and underserved. [Abstract]

11 p
Global Health: Science and Practice
Van Lith LM, Yahner M, Bakamjian L.