Religious Leaders Can Help Promote Family Planning

Religious Leaders Can Help Promote Family Planning

A common challenge in advancing family planning is overcoming the misconceptions religious leaders have about the use of contraceptives.

Concerns from religious leaders are often based on misconceptions about family planning methods rather than their religious beliefs. The fear that hormonal methods will cause infertility or are dangerous, are commonly expressed as concerns from religious leaders.

These methods are 300 times safer than becoming pregnant in Afghanistan and about 100 times safer than pregnancy in Yemen, Malawi, and Tanzania is an appropriate way to look at the risks versus benefits.  My experience in these four countries has been that this message was well received by both Muslims and Christians, along with the sound evidence for improved child and maternal health outcomes with healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP). 

When the health benefits for women and children are understood, religious leaders favor helping couples achieve the number and timing of their children, though they may differ about which methods are most acceptable from a religious point of view. 

A well-informed reference for Islamic organizations is the statement on reproductive health by Islamic Relief.  The favorable views from a broad range of Christian organizations, the survey on family planning attitudes and practices by Christian Connections for International Health has been useful to program managers and policy-makers.

Both Muslim and Christian religious leaders can be a positive influence in their communities to advance family planning practices when they have sound information and assistance in overcoming common misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Douglas Huber, MD, MSc is a Reproductive Health Specialist for Innovative Development Expertise and Advisory Services, Inc.

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