To determine the number of children into two is among Filipino women’s top concern. Three out of four women want to plan their pregnancies, however, they end up having one child more than they wanted.
“This has been the gray scenario in the country for decades,” said Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. (The Forum), the advocacy organization that works with local community networks in promoting reproductive health and rights.
“Filipino women should be able to have the number of children that they want,” said de Leon. “If women are able to achieve this, they are also able to lead a better quality of life for their children and families.”
De Leon cited the 2017 result of the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) which was conducted by the Philippine Statistics Office (PSA).
Survey results revealed that 75 percent or 3 out of 4 women in the childbearing ages of 15-49 years old wanted only two children. Most women or 60 to 75 percent expressed that they wanted to stop having children while the rest or 15 percent of the 75 percent wanted to have children at a later time in order to prevent pregnancies occurring too close to each other.
In the overall result of the NDHS, it noted a 31 percent rate of unmet need for family planning among sexually active women in both married and unmarried states. Of the 31 percent, 17 percent or representing ages 15 to 49 years old wanted to practice some form of family planning (FP) yet they do not have access to FP methods. On the other hand, 14 percent still rely on ineffective traditional methods, such as, withdrawal.
According to the PSA, there is a total of 27,713,110 women of reproductive ages 15 to 49 by the end of 2018. The agency also projected a total population of 107 million as of end-2018 with 3.22 births per minute.
The NDHS placed the country’s total fertility rate at 2.7 percent which is more than the ideal of two children. The fertility rate is used as a demographic indicator in order to estimate the actual number of children each woman would have within the childbearing years. Over the years, the fertility rate has gradually gone down from 3 children based on the 2013 result.
The drop in fertility rate offers better chances that more women are now able to limit the number of births that they can deliver or provide space on their pregnancies. Family planning, however, is still low among married women who are in the lowest socio-economic levels and women who did not attend school, noted by The Forum.
The PSA also highlighted the regions with higher fertility rates from the national average of 2.7 percent. Of the 17 regions across the country, three regions stand out with women having 3.8 to 4.1 children, these are the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Bicol, and Western Visayas.
The survey result illustrate a positive sign especially among women who wish to have just the right number of children. It could mean that the family’s well-being is becoming a top priority and this is a valuable indicator in attaining overall progress for the country, observed by The Forum.
For de Leon, “family planning is a human right that must be accorded to every woman who wants to practice it. A woman who has the means and the power to stop or postpone another pregnancy also has the capacity to attain education or be employed and fulfill her dreams.”
“We just have to help women achieve what they envision for themselves and for them to have the reproductive rights they are entitled to,” he emphasized.
The Forum supports the government program implementation on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health. The group focuses work on areas with high unmet needs around the country by raising awareness on the use of family planning methods as a means to deliver positive impact in decreasing teen pregnancies, reducing maternal and infant deaths, preventing induced abortion cases, and ultimately to end the cycle of poverty.