Academic journal article International Social Science Review

An Analysis of Reproductive Health Components in Yemen

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

An Analysis of Reproductive Health Components in Yemen

Article excerpt


Over the last five decades, efforts to control global population growth have focused on family planning policies and programs. Since the 2004 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), (1) demographic studies on understanding fertility-controlling behavior have concentrated on reproductive health. The 2004 ICPD broadened the narrow view of population control to include individual health by asserting that population growth could be managed through the economic, political, and social advancement of women. (2) This parallels the recent shift in focus of population control studies from limiting family size to improving women's health and protecting human rights. (3) Despite this change, fertility-controlling behavior has yet to be thoroughly investigated in many countries. One such example is the People's Republic of Yemen. To be sure, some demographic studies have tried to unravel the complex fertility condition in the Middle East. (4) But these studies have neglected several countries in the region primarily due to the lack of availability of national data. This study attempts to address this gap in the literature by focusing on three factors in the continuum of the reproductive process (age at marriage, contraceptive use, and abortion/miscarriage) to understand the fertility-controlling behavior of Yemeni women.

The importance of age at marriage as a means of population control was first addressed in the late eighteenth century by the political economist Thomas R. Malthus who advocated postponement of marriage as a means to balance population size with limited resources. (5) Early age at marriage (in some societies, marriage before the age of fifteen) has resulted in early childbearing, greater health risks for both mother and infant, and often defines the social and economic characteristics of that society. (6)

The use of contraceptives is another major factor that influences the fertility-controlling behavior of women. The use of contraceptives to control population growth affects the health of the mother and child, the ability to avoid unwanted births, and the timing and spacing of children. Other factors that influence the use of contraceptives by women include communication between spouses, (7) preferences and perceptions of the attitudes of her partner, (8) and husband's approval. (9)

The third fertility-controlling behavior addressed in this study concerns the use of abortion. Availability of abortion as an informed choice of birth control is generally considered a human fights issue in many countries. In countries where contraceptives are not easily accessible to women, abortion is considered the most viable form of birth control. Abortions have played a crucial role in achieving a decline in fertility in many developing countries. (10)

These three factors represent the major components emphasized in the United Nations' definition of reproductive health. They influence a woman's informed ability to engage in sexual relationships, her ability to make effective, acceptable, and affordable choices regarding the use of contraceptives, and her access to safe and appropriate healthcare services during pregnancy. (11) In other words, a woman's reproductive health can be explained by the extent of control she possesses over decisions regarding age at marriage, timing of sexual unions, pace of childbearing, access to contraceptives, as well as access to information concerning childbirth and the prevention and treatment of reproductive related illness. (12)


Since the unification of Yemen in 1990, several structural reforms and policy changes have been introduced to control that country's population growth. One of the major achievements in this area has been the adoption of a national policy on population control. The National Committee for Population and Family Planning tried to reduce Yemen's death rate by at least fifty percent by 2000, reduce its total fertility rate by six births per woman over the same period, decrease infant mortality by six deaths per 1,000 live births, and lower maternal mortality by fifty percent from its 1991 level. …

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