By Ana P. Santos
BALI, Indonesia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - If you're looking to boost your sex life, birth control may be the answer, health experts say.
A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that couples who use contraception have as much as three times more sex than couples who do not.
"Contraception is a tool that can separate sex from pregnancy. That can transform the role of sex in a relationship from just procreation to also enjoyment," said Suzanne Bell, an author of the findings released at a three-day family planning conference in Bali that ended on Thursday.
The researchers examined national health surveys in 47 low- to middle-income countries, with data on 210,000 women - all of them in relationships and in need of contraception.
The women were asked if they had had sex in the last month and were currently using a family planning method.
About 90 percent of women who used contraception said they had had sex over the last month, compared with 72 percent not using contraception.
Many women do not use or stop using contraception such as the pill or intrauterine devices (IUD) because they suffer side effects. Bell suggested offering women a wider choice of contraceptives to address this problem.
"Contraception is not one size fits all. Needs change over time, and we need to take life preferences and stages into consideration," Bell said.
A related study showed that family planning and smaller family size leads to longer life expectancy for children.
The study across 35 developing countries showed that in families that have four or fewer children, their life expectancy is three years longer than that of children in families with five or more offspring.
This is because smaller families have fewer children competing for limited resources.
"Mothers are able to take care of the children more, they are less prone to diseases and malnutrition. They can go to school and finish their education and so on," said Saifuddin Ahmed, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of the study.
"We have for a long time looked at family planning from the point of view of controlling population growth. We should also look at it from qualitative individual benefits that can extend throughout the course of your entire life."
(Reporting by Ana P. Santos, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)