PAPER: Disability and Contraception in Developing Countries

Posted on 24 January 2009. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Cognitive Impairments, Families, Health, Mobility Impariments, Psychiatric Disabilities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Doctors, social workers, neighbors, and even family members often mistakenly assume that people with disabilities cannot possibly be interested in sex. Or if they are, others believe they cannot physically participate. Or if they can, others think that no one would want to have sex with them. Because of these myths, people with disabilities are often deliberately excluded from sex education programs and reproductive care services. These include contraception to prevent pregnancy, as well as support for people with disabilities who wish to bear and raise healthy, happy children.

The fact is, a great many people with a wide range of disabilities are capable of having children and desire the rewards that can come with parenthood. And many become excellent parents who raise well-adjusted children. But they often lack family planning services that allow them to make their own choices about how many children to have and when to have them. This may be partly because even family planners who understand the need and importance of counseling for people with disabilities may not know how.

Although people with physical disabilities frequently can and do have children, the nature of some physical disabilities may sometimes affect what kind of contraceptions they can use or how to use them. An article published in 1999 by Family Health International’s journal Network, entitled Disabled Have Many Contraceptive Needs, explains how some physical disabilities, or the medications taken for them, may affect the kinds of contraceptions they are able to use. Family planning professionals may consult this article at

People with mild intellectual disabilities, and also people with psychosocial disabilities, are often as interested in sexuality as the general population. They also may in some cases wish to have children. Both intellectual disabilities and psychosocial disabilities may affect how well contraceptive options or instructions are understood, or how well they may follow instructions. Another article entitled Mental Disabilities Affect Method Options” discusses various examples of how family planning professionals can account for these factors. This article, also published in 1999, can be read at

I learned about these articles through a class I’m taking on Gender, Disability and Development this semester. Thanks, Barbara Earth!

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