Effect of Contraceptive Use on Long-Term Career Ambitions for Women

By AbdulRazak Abilagbo and Uchenna Okafor

Despite progress in increasing contraceptive use in developing countries during recent decades, Family Planning uptake has continued to lag in Africa. Economic incentives are one of the most critical factors in increasing the use of contraception among women. (Broeck, 2019).

Deciding if, when, and how to raise a family is closely connected with labour force attachment and career development, determining both what kind of and how much work a woman will be able to do. (Kate Bahn, 2017).

Now enabled with the ability to delay pregnancies and control the number of children they have, family planning ensures that women can maintain continuous career trajectories, without prolonged breaks due to unexpected pregnancies. With greater control over their reproductive health, women can confidently pursue challenging job opportunities, relocate for career advancement, and establish a work-life balance that supports their career ambitions.

When women have the choice and access to engage in Family planning services, they can pursue more opportunities that will lead to higher financial outcomes for themselves and their families.

The Cost of Success for Career Women

Career-focused women are often faced with the dilemma around family aspirations and the opportunity cost of progressing in their chosen fields. This uncertainty has fuelled the anxiety of many women about their long-term career ambitions. According to Fertility Matters at Work, 93% of women said that their careers had been impacted in some way by their struggles to conceive and take care of their children.

Studies have also identified that women are limited in their choice of economic generation activities, such constraints bear major influences on their decision to commit to a career role and the accompanying variables attached to earning. Culturally, there are undesirable stereotypes perpetuated by society, about women engaging in full-time roles that may interfere with their marriages.

For many women, the brutal demands of an ambitious career and the difficulties of bearing children late in life make it challenging to have children. Compared to fathers, high-achieving men do not have to deal with the opportunity cost of choosing between a fulfilling career or family. The nuances in male-female relationships make it easier for men to attain both a partner and children without compromising on their career choices. This is often not the case for women who oftentimes have to make difficult decisions if they want to have both.

According to (Larwood, 1986) career success factors are usually examined using two main criteria, income and job title. Success in the workplace is an amalgamation of several elements, learned and practised diligently over a lengthy career lifespan. These resultant effects may lead to a rise in take-home compensation and/or job title, the key indicating factors that determine career growth.

It is not because of a clearly defined roadmap that women struggle to achieve their long-term career goals. For women to compete with their male counterparts, they may have to work overtime hours, keep late nights, travel on official trips for extended periods, and make other concessions to remain competitive. These critical success factors affect women more, due to their traditional roles as maintainers of the home.

Can Women really have it all?

Pregnancy is an integral part of any woman’s life. This ability to nurture and after 9 months, birth life is a unique and fulfilling aspect  of motherhood. During this period, the female body undergoes several changes that may impede her ability to perform workplace duties. Additionally, because of the risks associated with childbirth or the extended periods needed for their bodies to heal and recover after delivery, employers may choose at times to pass over women in favour of male candidates with similar pedigrees.

This narrative often propagates gender stereotypes and is a contributing factor to the culture of discrimination experienced by women when employers make hiring decisions. Despite recent advancements in female empowerment initiatives, many organisations still view career progression opportunities using this lens. Under the Labour Act, women in the workforce are legally protected, this goes some way in ensuring organisations are contractually obligated to provide them with financial and time-off benefits during their third trimester and after childbirth. However, corporations above all have a duty to protect the interests of their shareholders, this may mean putting profits ahead of any other competing factor.

Bukola Okikiolu writes in her article, that childcare is a major determinant factor in the career life span of women. For most Nigerian women, only a few things are as difficult as trying to juggle a thriving career and motherhood.

Impact of Family Planning on Career Ambitions

According to (Bailey, 2006), it has been demonstrated that the introduction of hormonal birth control was important for expanding women’s labour force participation in the United States. Correlations between employment and fertility have been linked together due to their ties to women’s economic and social statuses in families and societies. Other studies have also shown that women who are employed have fewer children than women who are not employed. Empirical evidence seems to suggest, the importance of birth control access early as a strong indicator of influencing young women’s career trajectory. Access to birth control is one of the major determinants of an effective reproductive health care system, a key variable integral to women’s increased economic opportunity. The more empowered women are, the more likely they are to use modern contraception, deliver in a health facility and have a skilled attendant at birth (Corroon M, 2014).

The Society for Family (SFH) activities and policies recognise the influence of contraceptive use on a woman’s ability to live a healthier life and achieve economic and social aspirations including her long-term career goals. Over the years, and in close partnership with the Government of Nigeria and its partners, SFH has worked towards achieving universal health care and gender equality. 

SFH’s E-Pharma4FP programme with a strong focus on increasing access to contraceptives using digital innovation places a strong emphasis on providing expanded options of safe and effective contraceptive products through convenient and easy-to-use e-pharmacy platforms.

Reproductive health care access is intertwined with economic opportunity due to both the direct costs affecting women when they lack affordable access to reproductive health care services, and because reproductive rights and access to family-planning services afford women greater choice over their careers, which affects their long-term economic well-being. (Kate Bahn, 2017). Ensuring that women can exercise their reproductive rights while accessing affordable reproductive health services allows them the freedom of choice to decide when to raise a family and provides them with the opportunity to fully engage in the labour market.

Family planning and child spacing interventions can play a crucial role in helping women achieve their career objectives by providing them with greater control over their reproductive choices and enabling them to make informed decisions about when and how many children to have.

Delaying childbearing during crucial career-building years gives women the opportunity to focus on education, skill development, and career advancement, ultimately enhancing their qualifications and job prospects. Technological advancements in Family Planning may also allow for suggested delays in childbearing, to ease the corporate climb until their careers are well established.

Being able to guarantee and expect control over one’s body, including reproductive decisions, is a necessary condition for the ability to fully engage in the labour market and face a lower likelihood of financial uncertainty.

Women with more robust reproductive health care choices are more likely to work permanent full-time roles, remain more competitive in the labour market and ultimately position themselves to earn higher incomes. Understanding these barriers that affect reproductive health issues can lead to better economic outcomes for women, a crucial step in formulating policy aimed at fiscal development in Africa.

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  • Broeck, G. V. (2019). Women’s employment and family planning in Rural Uganda. Women & Health.
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  • Fertility Matters at Work. (2022, September). /fertility-struggles-the-impact-to-careers/. Retrieved from
  • Kate Bahn, A. K. (2017). Linking Reproductive Health Care Access to Labor Market Opportunities for Women. Center for American Progress.
  • Larwood, U. E. (1986). Subjective Career Success: A Study of Managers and Support Personnel. Journal of Business and Psychology.
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