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Reproductive Health

Reproductive health (RH) is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease, in all matters relating to the reproductive health system.  RH implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability and freedom to decide their reproductive choices. RH problems such as early and unwanted childbearing, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy-related illness and death account for a significant part of the burden of disease among adolescents and adults in developing countries. The 1993 World Development Report showed that at least 13% of all DALYs were caused by RH problems. For women the proportion was 33%. RH problems are particularly concentrated among the poor who often lack access to minimal RH care. An estimated 120 million women wish to space and limit childbearing but lack access to family planning. Prevention is the most cost-effective approach to addressing most RH problems. Serious problems are costly and very difficult to solve once manifest. The adverse consequences of poor RH, and the benefits of good RH, extend well beyond health, and have an impact at the societal level. For example, early childbearing can have negative health and social consequences for young mothers and lasting effects on their children. Good RH increases productivity and well-being.


Some benefits of reproductive health interventions

  • Improving adolescent reproductive health reduces unwanted pregnancies and the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. It improves the chances of girls continuing in school and expands their life options.
  • Providing life coping skills including RH education for boys and girls.
  • Prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) prevents sexual spread of HIV.
  • Integrating HIV prevention activities in mother and child health (MCH) and family planning (FP) programs addresses missed opportunities to curb the HIV epidemic.
  • Being able to choose when to get pregnant, apart from being a health issue, greatly influences population growth, and environmental conditions.
  • Increasing contraceptive choices and access leads to fewer unsafe abortions – arguably the most easily avoidable cause of maternal death.
  • Life-saving care for complications from abortion is an excellent opportunity to provide contraception, avoiding another unwanted pregnancy.
  • Reducing pregnancy-related deaths and illness in mothers increases newborn and child survival, and improves productivity.
  • Reducing maternal deaths depends on a functioning health system. Strengthening the system to improve maternal health brings benefits in many other areas of health.
  • Reducing violence against women decreases maternal and child morbidity and mortality, and unwanted pregnancy, and affirms the value of women in society.