Reproductive Health

Birth Spacing

After a live birth, women or their partners use a modern contraceptive method to avoid pregnancy for at least 24 months

Using a modern contraceptive method to space pregnancies at least 24 months apart could reduce maternal mortality by up to 40%1Strategies for reducing maternal mortality: getting on with what works
Lancet. 2006 Oct 7; 368(9543):1284-99
Campbell OM, Graham WJ, Lancet Maternal Survival Series steering group
October 7, 2006
  and child mortality by 26%.2Rutstein and Winter, 2014  This is a preventive behavior that can be successfully carried out using a number of different modern contraceptive methods.

Key Points from Global Research

  • Involving partners, family members, religious and community leaders in the dialogue around birth spacing can ensure understanding and support to contraceptive users.
  • Improving quality, respectful care and provider assistance on birth spacing issues can increase the confidence of users and the likelihood that they will start and continue to use modern contraceptives.
  • Maintaining easy and continual access can encourage women and their partners to start and continue to use modern contraceptives for birth spacing.

Behavior Profile Sample: Birth Spacing

A Behavior Profile is a summary analysis of each behavior. This sample draws from global evidence and illustrates the result of using the Create Behavior Profiles Tool to analyze factors, supporting actors and strategies and to ensure logical pathways exist between strategies proposed and factors related to the practice of the behavior. This sample may be used as a starting point or reference for creating Behavior Profiles. 

Create Behavior Profiles

Improve maternal and child survival
After a live birth, women or their partners use a modern contraceptive method to avoid pregnancy for at least 24 months
Indicator: Percentage of currently married or in union women using family planning for spacing

Behavior Analysis



What steps are needed to practice this behavior?
  1. Decide to use a modern contraceptive method
  2. Obtain family planning counseling from a qualified provider
  3. Select appropriate modern contraceptive method
  4. Obtain chosen method
  5. Use chosen method as instructed

Click on any box
        to see the pathwaysA pathway illustrates how elements in the Behavior Profile are linked. When read from right to left, a pathway highlights how strategies are expected to address the factors to enable adoption of the Accelerator Behavior.  
        of the behavior.


What factors may prevent or support practice of this behavior? These should be analyzed for each country context.
Accessibility: Women and their partners do not have access to modern contraceptives because commodity supply is often irregular or sporadic, especially for certain methods
Service Provider Competencies: Women and their partners do not receive guidance on birth spacing because some providers do not emphasize its importance in discussing family planning
Service Provider Competencies: Women do not consult service providers about birth spacing because providers are sometimes rude, judgmental, and do not maintain confidentiality
Norms: Women and their partners do not consider birth spacing or decide to use modern contraceptives because large families are often the norm and the risks of closely spaced births are not well-understood or accepted
Family and Community Support: Women do not use modern contraceptives because community and religious leaders resist these on moral grounds (though they can be supportive of the concept of birth spacing)
Gender: Women do not use modern contraceptives or practice birth spacing because men often see large families or a frequently pregnant partner as a sign of virility and strength
Attitudes and Beliefs: Women do not use modern contraceptives for birth spacing because they fear side effects
Knowledge: Women and their partners do not practice birth spacing because they do not understand the benefits


Who must support the practice of this behavior?
Logistics Personnel: Plan and manage contraceptive supplies to ensure consistent supply of stocked commodities
Providers: Offer respectful care and comprehensive counseling on the benefits of birth spacing and other specific birth spacing messages
Community Leaders: Publicly support birth spacing and seek out spaces to discuss with men and women both on the importance of healthy birth spacing
Male Partners: Actively support wives to select and implement appropriate birth spacing method


How might we focus our efforts based on this analysis?
Enabling Environment
Partnerships and Networks: Extend commodity supply outlets via social franchising or community based distribution networks
Partnerships and Networks: Use community and faith-based organizations, including places of worship, to share and discuss birth spacing
Systems, Products and Services
Supply Chain: Enhance use of Logistics Management Information Systems to better estimate contraceptive needs
Quality Improvement: Expand birth spacing entry points into Integrated Management of Childhood Illness clinics, postnatal care, etc.
Quality Improvement: Integrate specific birth spacing messages and communication skills into pre-service health worker curricula
Demand and Use
Advocacy : Develop birth spacing and Family Planning Advocacy Toolkit to garner support from different levels of leadership
Communication: Use community open forums (with materials produced above) to discuss birth spacing services
Communication: Produce and disseminate birth spacing materials to families that position birth spacing as the healthiest option for a family

Global Status of Accelerator Behavior

Indicator: Percentage of currently married or in union women using family planning for spacing

The DHS Program Indicator Data API, The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program

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