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The WHO Definition of Reproductive Health

Reproductive health is defined by WHO as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system at all stages of life. Reproductive health 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. Implicit in this are the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable, and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, and the right to appropriate health-care services that enable women to safely go through pregnancy and childbirth.

Reproductive health care is defined as the constellation of methods, techniques, and services that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by preventing and solving reproductive health problems. It also includes sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations, and not merely counseling and care related to reproduction and sexually transmitted infections.

In support of this aim, WHO's reproductive health program has developed four broad programmatic goals:

  • Experience healthy sexual development and maturation and have the capacity for equitable and responsible relationships and sexual fulfillment;
  • Achieve their desired number of children safely and healthily, when and if they decide to have them;
  • Avoid illness, disease, and disability related to sexuality and reproduction and receive appropriate care when needed;
  • Be free from violence and other harmful practices related to sexuality and reproduction.

Source: Progress 45 (1998). Available online at www.who.int/reproductive-health/hrp/progress/45/prog45.pdf.