Medical barriers to access to family planning

Lancet. 1992 Nov 28;340(8831):1334-5. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)92505-a.


PIP: Medical barriers to family planning (FP) are identified as contraindications, eligibility, process hurdles, the provider of contraception, provider bias, and regulation. These obstacles to FP are considered practices which may have a medical rationale in some manner but are scientifically unjustified. The denial or interference in obtaining contraception is unacceptable. Examples are given of barriers, i.e., eligibility criteria such as lack of headaches or history of diabetes. Obstacles that deter oral contraception (OC) are a by-product of testing requirements, repeat visits, and long waits. OC provision does not require a physician's prescription; a trained technician can perform similar functions. When a provider such as community-based distributor is limited in provision of methods, women are not given the right to choose from a full menu. Medical barriers occur due to the ignorance about the safety of contraceptives, the benefits of FP, and the role of health professionals in service delivery. Clinics tend to be curative rather than preventive. In place of careful thinking, there are rules in a hierarchical medical system suitable for treatment of complicated life-threatening illness. Barriers are complicated, interrelated, and situational. The solutions suggested are 1) informing the health community and mobilizing medical leadership, 2) defining and treating the FP seeker as a client and not a medical patient, and 3) engaging in more epidemiological research to assess the risk/benefits of contraceptive use and operations research to evaluate ways to reduce medical restrictions. The position that obstacles are an example of quality of care does not support the Bruce-Jain FP quality of care framework. Health and FP services may be integrated but contraceptive usage should not be at the expense of health care. The obstacles are not just in developing countries where it would appear that access to FP far outweighs the risks of maternal mortality from pregnancy. Providers are not the target is creating a win-win-win situation for the client, the provider, and organized public health.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Family Planning Services / methods
  • Family Planning Services / standards*
  • Health Education
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Role