New eLearning Course: HTSP’s Role in Ending Preventable Maternal, Newborn, Infant, and Child Deaths

Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy

Lisa Mwaikambo

CCP | Co-Manager, Global Health eLearning

Maureen Norton

USAID | Senior Technical Adviser, Office of Population and Reproductive Health
5 SDG Themes of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership

The 5 Sustainable Development Goal Themes of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. Source: Starbird et al. 2016. Investing in Family Planning: Key to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. GHSP 4(2):191-210.

The ability of women and children to live healthy and productive lives is critical to economic development and growth, peace and security, and ultimately prosperity. Helping women to time and space their pregnancies contributes to their own and their children’s health and well-being. A recently-updated USAID eLearning course highlights these healthy reproductive behaviors and suggests programmatic approaches to help women and families make healthy reproductive decisions.

Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP) helps women and families make informed decisions about delaying, spacing, or limiting their pregnancies to achieve the healthiest outcomes for all. HTSP is an excellent entry point in focusing the discussion of family planning (FP) on the health of the mother and child. At the same time, increased family planning use contributes not only to the health of women and children, but also many other Sustainable Development Goals1.

Key HTSP messages include the following:

  • Too young: Delay your first pregnancy until you are at least 18 years old2
  • Too old: Try to conceive during a mother’s healthiest years, ages 18-34
  • Too close: Wait at least two years after a live birth before trying to become pregnant again
  • Too soon: Wait six months after a miscarriage or induced abortion before trying for another pregnancy3
  • Consider your fertility intentions: Discuss your fertility intentions with your health care provider (how many children you want to have and when), the risks of having many children (high parity), and the contraceptive options that you can choose to protect your health4

Evidence shows5 that family planning saves lives in several ways:

  • Reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby lowering the number of women, infants, and children exposed to pregnancy-related health risks
  • Preventing high-risk pregnancies: helping women bear children at the healthiest times of their lives, when they and their children are both more likely to survive and stay healthy

Recently, World Vision hosted a webinar on the successes and challenges encountered during the implementation of its Mobilizing for Maternal and Neonatal Health through Birth Spacing and Advocacy (MOMENT) project, which is a three-year Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded HTSP/FP and advocacy project being implemented in India, Kenya, Canada, and the US. World Vision has seen significant improvements in contraceptive prevalence rates in India and Kenya. In addition, these activities fostered new HTSP champions among faith-based leaders as well as policy makers in all four countries.

As we strive to become better advocates for women, children, and families, we can all become more familiar with and integrate HTSP messages, evidence, and tools into existing programs and services. Check out the recently streamlined and updated Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy (HTSP) eLearning course on the Global Health eLearning Center.

1. Starbird et al. 2016

2. WHO 2014

3. WHO 2005

4. Stover and Ross 2010

5. USAID 2014