Voluntary Female Sterilization: Number One and Growing

Around 16% of all married women of reproductive age (MWRA) in the world have voluntarily undergone female sterilization which equals about 1'38 million women (123 million in developing countries).  Moreover, it has increased 45% since 1984.  Researchers estimate that the number of women wishing to be sterilized in developing countries will increase an additional 67 million by 2000.  Thus female sterilization is the leading family planning (FP) method in the world.  Indeed it leads the list of FP methods used in at least 20 countries.  It is also 1 of the fastest growing methods.  Expanding safe, efficient, and convenient services, especially in developing countries, is the major reason it is the fastest growing method.  In Kenya, for example, female sterilization grew rapidly from about 68 women in 1982 to >11,000 women in 1990.  IN 1982, physicians at only 2 hospitals in Kenya performed female sterilization, but by 1990, health providers performed them at least 50 sites (not including providers in private practice).  Of developed countries, female sterilization is most prevalent (23% of MWRA) and growing the fastest in the US.  A challenge for FP programs is to continue providing safe, high quality services to all women wanting to undergo female sterilization.  They must also assure voluntarism and informed choice.  FP programs should use all channels of communication, especially the mass media, to clearly and accurately inform the public females sterilization.  They should also have well trained staff who can counsel clients objectively and empathetically.  Health practitioners should minimize risks by using local anesthesia.  They should also be able to perform sterilization in as many places possible for as many women possible thus making sterilization accessible to all women who want it.  Finally, health professionals must undergo special training and be monitored and supervised frequently.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,The INFO Project