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Trends in prevalence of unmet need for family planning in India: patterns of change across 36 States and Union Territories, 1993–2021
Authors: Kirtana Devaraj, Jewel Gausman, Raman Mishra, Akhil Kumar, Rockli Kim and S. V. Subramanian
Source: Reproductive Health, Volume 21; DOI:
Topic(s): Family planning
Reproductive health
Unmet need
Country: Asia
Published: APR 2024
Abstract: Background: Eliminating unmet need for family planning by 2030 is a global priority for ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. We estimate the sub-national trends in prevalence of unmet need for family planning over 30 years in India and study differences based on socio-economic and demographic factors. Methods: We used data from five National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) conducted between 1993 to 2021 for the 36 states/Union Territories (UTs) of India. The study population included women of ages 15–49 years who were married or in a union at the time of the survey. The outcome was unmet need for family planning which captures the prevalence of fecund and sexually active women not using contraception, who want to delay or limit childbearing. We calculated the standardized absolute change to estimate the change in prevalence on an annual basis across all states/UTs. We examined the patterning of prevalence of across demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and estimated the headcount of women with unmet need in 2021. Results: The prevalence of unmet need in India decreased from 20·6% (95% CI: 20·1– 21·2%) in 1993, to 9·4% (95% CI: 9·3–9·6%) in 2021. Median unmet need prevalence across states/UTs decreased from 17·80% in 1993 to 8·95% in 2021. The north-eastern states of Meghalaya (26·9%, 95% CI: 25·3–28·6%) and Mizoram (18·9%, 95% CI: 17·2–20·6%), followed by the northern states of Bihar (13·6%, 95% CI: 13·1–14·1%) and Uttar Pradesh (12·9%, 95% CI: 12·5–13·2%), had the highest unmet need prevalence in 2021. As of 2021, the estimated number of women with an unmet need for family planning was 24,194,428. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, and West Bengal accounted for half of this headcount. Women of ages 15–19 and those belonging the poorest wealth quintile had a relatively high prevalence of unmet need in 2021. Conclusions: The existing initiatives under the National Family Planning Programme should be strengthened, and new policies should be developed with a focus on states/UTs with high prevalence, to ensure unmet need for family planning is eliminated by 2030.