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KARACHI, Sept 26: Speakers at a symposium on Wednesday said that Pakistan, projected to be the fourth most populated country after India, China and the United States by 2050, needed better family planning strategies to avert not only overpopulation but also mother and child health problems.

Around 27 per cent of Pakistani women sought birth spacing or wanted to have no more pregnancies, but they had no access to modern contraceptive methods or somehow could not exercise their right to safe reproductive health, they said.

The symposium was organised for gynaecologists and postgraduate medical students by a pharmaceutical and healthcare establishment with the support of national and international organisations in connection with World Contraception Day, which fell on Sept 26.

In the presentations, it was also highlighted that even the educated class did not have adequate knowledge of different contraceptive or barrier methods and they largely appeared concerned about the side-effects of contraceptives. Most married couples exercising family planning preferred condoms or pills, the participants were informed.

Gynaecologist Prof Sadia Ahsan Pal referred to the world and Pakistan’s population and stressed the need to improve strategies for family planning to slow down an increase in population, reduce reproductive health complications and avert unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

“We are already living out of our resources and Pakistan might be the fifth or even fourth on the lists of countries with high populations by 2050,” she added.

She deplored that the country had made no headway on the family planning front. “Had we been able to maintain the governmental zeal of the 1950-60s, the population growth rate would have been brought down to 1 per cent or less, and the population would not have exceeded 100 million,” she said.

Discussing the lack of services or barriers to family planning, she said such problems as poor quality of services, sub-optimal interaction between clients and providers, substandard centres with incompetent providers and disregard to woman visitors at government settings needed to be addressed on a priority basis.

Limited technologies and inappropriate methods and fear or experience of side-effects were some of the reasons behind the low contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) in the country for the last decade, she said, adding that only 30 per cent of women of childbearing years were using contraceptives.

Dr Rukhsana Mughal of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynaecology said contraception was important as it prevented unwanted pregnancies, gave freedom to choose the right time for parenthood, while condoms prevented women from sexually transmitted infections also.

She discussed various types of contraception and said condoms, birth control pills, contraceptive injections, contraceptive implants, IUDs and sterilisations were being applied as barrier methods in Pakistan. A lack of support from communities and spouses, misinformation and a lack of finances and transport could be blamed for the unsatisfactory CPR in the country, she added.