The need for family planning variable categorizes women according to whether they have an unmet need or a met need, to space or to limit their future births:
- Unmet need for spacing includes pregnant women whose pregnancy was mistimed, postpartum amenorrheic women whose last birth was mistimed, and fecund women who are neither pregnant nor postpartum amenorrheic and who are not using any method of family planning and say they want to wait two or more years for their next birth, are undecided about the timing of the next birth, or are undecided whether to have another child.
- Unmet need for limiting includes pregnant women whose pregnancy was unwanted, postpartum amenorrheic women whose last birth was unwanted and fecund women who are neither pregnant nor postpartum amenorrheic and who are not using any method of family planning and who want no more children.
- Met need for spacing includes women who are using some method of family planning and say they want to have another child, are undecided about the timing of the next birth, or are undecided whether to have another child.
- Met need for limiting includes women who are using family planning and who want no more children. Note that the specific methods are not taken into account here.
In Model "A" countries, pregnant and postpartum amenorrheic women whose pregnancy was the result of a contraceptive failure are not included in the category of unmet need, but are categorized as spacing failures or limiting failures. In Model "B" countries, no distinction is made since the information on contraceptive failure is not ascertained.
For formerly married and never married women, two additional categories exist. Women who have never had sex are separated into a separate category, as are women who would be categorized as having an unmet need to space or to limit, but who had not had sex in the month before the interview.
The remaining cases are those women who have no need for contraceptive methods, either because they desire a child soon (within the next two years) or because they are menopausal or infecund. Note that the infecund or menopausal category on this variable contains fewer cases than variable V623 as those women that are categorized as infecund or menopausal, but are currently using a contraceptive method are recorded in the two "met need" categories. Additionally, the code for the category "infecund or menopausal" has been changed to code 9 to allow for the two extra coding categories for formerly married or never married women.
NOTE: This definition was used in the majority of the DHSIII survey reports.