Fertility transition in Benin : new reproductive patterns or traditional behaviours?
This study analyses reproductive changes in Benin, a West African country with high fertility and low prevalence of use of modem contraceptive methods, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Findings indicate that a transition to lower fertility is underway, particularly in the urban areas, as a result of an emerging pattern of birth limitation and continued desire for the traditional long birth intervals. But only a small change has occurred in the main proximate determinants of fertility. The data suggest: that changes in childhood mortality in combination with increased women's education, though modest, have probably created a demand for fertility control among women; that induced abortion among other factors, may be one of the means through which such demand was met, particularly in urban areas; and that the economic crisis of the 1980s was the main catalyst which precipitated the onset of transition. Changes in reproductive preference and practice suggest a diffusion process, from the urban and more educated women to the rural and less educated ones. The data also reveal that the low prevalence of use of modem contraception may be associated with poor knowledge, widespread fear of side effects and complications and poor quality of family planning services. The main policy implication of these results is that an appropriate reproductive health programme is required to address women's needs and reduce the levels of unwanted pregnancies and induced abortion which are likely to be rising rapidly.