Independence is an epic moment in history that deserves national attention; but 50 years long, deserves salutation. 2012 will remain a momentous year for Jamaica as our nationals, locally and internationally, celebrate its 50th year of independence. The National Family Planning Board proudly joins in that celebration as we celebrate our 45th year of service to the country.
Family Planning began in the 1930s, to help women choose the size of their families and the spacing of their children. The establishment of agencies providing family planning services in Jamaica were through the efforts of a number of committed individuals, including donors, corporate bodies and family initiatives. And in 1938, Jamaica, second in line to Bermuda, had its first Birth Control League as a result of the pioneering work of Ms Amy Bailey, Dr Hyacinth Lightbourne and others who began setting up voluntary family planning associations and opening the country’s first birth control clinic in 1939.
Since then, Jamaicans have had the choice of accessing sexual and reproductive health information, education and counselling; as well as access to contraceptives to help time and space their births. However, many Jamaicans have failed to do so and the results are telling. The responsibility to claim sexual and reproductive health and become an acceptor of the services made available is in the individual’s hands. So in order to eradicate the perpetuation of inter-generational poverty and other factors contributing to women bearing 6 children in 11 years, 7 in 15 or 11 in 25 – reproducing above their capacity and capabilities, Jamaicans must make accessing family planning services a top priority.
As Governments around the world are focused on alleviating poverty and achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health, family planning contributes directly to the achievement of these goals, including promoting gender equity and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, and ensuring environmental sustainability. Thus the National Family Planning Board, as the premiere reproductive agency in Jamaica, remains a stalwart in providing viable services in tandem with Jamaica’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030, to maintain a healthy and stable population.
The goal today is for Jamaicans to avail themselves of the family planning services available to them. And in so doing, avoid reproducing too soon, too much, too often or too late. The responsibility is equal for the male as well as the female, young or old. For the best reproductive outcomes, individuals should ask themselves:
Is it Too Soon? There’s no need to be in a hurry. Wait until you are ready before getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant, in the case of boys/men. Not only are you at risk of complications in pregnancy and delivery; but also, you must have the resources that will be needed to support a family.
How much? Plan before you multiply. Limit the number of your pregnancies. Do not reproduce beyond your capacity to financially support your family and remember, women who have had more than four pregnancies are much more likely to have complications.
Am I having my children too often? Your body needs time from recovery from pregnancy and breastfeeding. Space your births at least two (2) years apart. Your children will also benefit, as they will not need to compete for your attention.
Is it too late? Young women under age 18 are at risk and so are women over age 35. The best time for having children is between 20 and 35. Older women run greater risks in pregnancy and childbirth.
Family Planning is critical for slowing unsustainable population growth and the resulting negative impacts on the economy, environment, and national and regional development efforts. Family planning enables individuals to plan their future and maintain quality of life. The establishment of the family planning programme and the efforts of service providers to provide the best possible health care to meet the needs of Jamaicans over the last 50 years is just part of the solution.