Women's health toolkit

Reproductive Health

Women's Reproductive Organs

Key Facts

The World Health Organisation (WHO)1 defines reproductive health as a “state of physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. It addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system at all stages of life and implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so”.

For the majority of women in their reproductive years, contraception and preconception care are important aspects of their daily lives that require individualised support.

At any point an estimated 78%2 of women aged 16-44 are sexually active and either wanting to prevent or to achieve an unassisted pregnancy

Of these:

  • 12% are using no contraception
  • 45% need ongoing contraception according to need
  • 20% need preconception and postnatal care.

A planned pregnancy is likely to be a healthier one, as unplanned pregnancies represent a missed opportunity to optimise pre-pregnancy health. Currently, 45% of pregnancies and one third of births in England are unplanned or associated with feelings of ambivalence3.

Although pregnancies continuing to term mostly lead to positive outcomes, some unplanned pregnancies can have adverse health impacts for mother, baby and children into later in life.

General practice remains the preferred place for women to access their contraception3.

References

  1. WHO Pacific Regional Office. Reproductive Health
  2. PHE: Health matters: reproductive health and pregnancy planning
  3. The prevalence of unplanned pregnancy and associated factors in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3); Wellings K et al. The Lancet. 2013: 382; 1807-16.
  4. PHE: What do women say? Reproductive health is a public health issue