Background of the Study

When Western and Scientific Medicine was born and began to develop under the gleams of Hippocrates (460 – 377 BC), one of its major point was to remove abortion and infanticide (Edelstein, 1943). The Hippocratic oath thus solemnly condemned them as unethical. Before Hippocrates, family planning has been in practice (Wikipedia, 2010). In the historical record of the Jews, Onan, son of Judah, in fulfillment of the laws of leverate marriage was to impregnate his brother Er’s widow, Tamar, in order to raise offspring from the union in his brother’s name (Genesis38:8). In order to avoid raising descendant for his late brother however, Onan spilled his semen on the ground when he went into his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother (Genesis 38:9-10). Thus, the word Onanism was coined meaning ejaculating outside the vagina or coitus interuptus (Wikipedia, 2010). Among Christian denominations today, there are large variety of positions towards family planning. The Roman Catholic has disallowed artificial contraception for as far back as one can historically trace. It was also disallowed by non-Catholic Christians until 1930 when the Anglican communion changed its policy.

Soon after, most protestant groups came to accept the use of modern contraceptive as a matter of biblically allowable freedom of conscience (Flann, 1960). The only form of birth control permitted by the Roman Catholic is abstinence. Modern scientific methods of “periodic abstinence” such as Natural Family Planning (NFP) were counted as a form of abstinence by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (Humanae Vita 1968). Meanwhile, protestant movements such as Focus on the Family view contraception use outside of marriage as encouragement to promiscuity (Abstinence policy, 2005). There is no ban on birth control in Hinduism (“BBC – Hindu beliefs about contraception”). Some Hindus believe that producing more children than the environment can support goes against the doctrine of the religious and moral codes of Hindus. Although fertility is important, according to the Hindus, but conceiving more children than can be supported is treated as violating the Ahimsa (non-violent rule of conduct) (Wikipedia, 2010).

Islam is considered as sympathetic to family planning. Since excessive fertility leads to proven health risks to mother and children, and/or leads to economic hardship or embarrassment to the father or inability of the parents to raise their children religiously, educationally, and socially, then Muslims would be allowed to regulate their fertility in such a way that these hardships are warded o or reduced. Such was apparently the basis for the legal opinion by Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltout, the former grand Imam of Al-Azhar (Onran, 1994). For all this time however, child spacing was the trust of family planning for most societies. The other aspect of family planning culture is that many men still believe that their wives should not use contraceptives because of the fear that it will make their wives independent of their control, and have sex with other men. Some others are against family planning solely because they themselves know little about it, a few decry the idea of their wives talking to strangers about sex and reproduction; while other worry that contraceptive use will harm their wives health or their own or violate their religious injunction (Population Reports, 1994); and all these will lead to alarming rate of population growth.

Nigeria is by far the most populous country in Africa and she accounts for approximately one-sixth of Africa people (Wikipedia, 2010). The Nigeria population estimate as at July 2009 was 149,229,090 (CIA World Factbook, 2009). As at 2010, the population of Nigeria rose to an estimated 152 million with a population growth rate of 2.0% (Bureau of African Affairs, 2010). The United Nations estimates that the population in 2005 was at 141 million, and predicted that it would reach 289 million by 2050 (World Population Prospects, 2006). Nigeria has just recently undergone the start of a population explosion due to high fertility rates. The United States Census Bureau projects that population of Nigeria will reach 264 million by 2050. Nigeria will then be the 8th most populous country in the world (International Data Base (IDB) – Country Rankings). Nigeria total fertility rate is 4.82 (Bureau of Africa Aairs, 2010). In 1988, the government of Nigeria adopted the National Policy on Population for Development, Unity, Progress and self-reliance. The policy was designed amongst others to slow population growth. Limited progress was made in implementing the policy, however, and millions of Nigerians remain mired in poverty, with inadequate access to reproductive health services and the means to determine for themselves the number and spacing of their children (National Population Commission(NPC), 2004). For living standards to rise, the rate of growth of the economy and the provision of social services would have to be much higher than the rate of population growth (National Population Policy(NPP), 2004). Contraceptive prevalence among married women in Nigeria is low compared to other sub-Saharan countries.

Although family planning services have been available in Nigeria since the 1950s, in 2003 only 8.9 percent of married women were using modern contraceptive (NPC, 2004). It is crucial therefore, to support and promote policies, such as the National Policy on Population for sustainable development, which are aimed at ensuring effective management of the growing population, and improving the quality of life for Nigerians (NPC, 2004). The impact of high fertility is felt at the population levels (national, sub-national, community) as well as by individuals and family (NPC, 2004). Infant mortality rates are higher when births are too close together (less than 24 months apart). In Nigeria, children born within two years of a preceding birth are twice as likely to die as those born three or more years apart (NPC, 2004). When birth are too close together, a woman’s body does not have adequate time to recover from the physical stress of the previous pregnancy and childbirth, thereby reducing her chance of delivering a healthy baby. Close spacing can also reduce the number of months a mother breastfeeds her child (NPC, 2004).