1998 National Demographic and Healthy Survey

Release Date: 

Monday, July 19, 2004


          SUMMARY OF FINDINGS          


The 1998 Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) is a nationally-representative survey of 13,983 women age 15-49.  The NDHS was designed to provide information on levels and trends of fertility, family planning knowledge and use, infant and child mortality, and maternal and child health.  It was implemented by the National Statistics Office in collaboration with the Department of Health.  Macro International Inc. of Calverton Maryland provided technical assistance to the project, while financial assistance was provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Fieldwork for the NDHS took place from early March to early May 1998.

Survey data generally confirm patterns observed in the 1993 National Demographic Survey (NDS), showing increasing contraceptive use and declining fertility.


Fertility Decline.   The NDHS data indicate that fertility continues to decline gradually but steadily.  At current levels, women will give birth an average of 3.7 children per woman during their reproductive years, a decline from the level of 4.1 recorded in the 1993 NDS.  A total fertility rate  of 3.7, however, is still considerably higher than the rates prevailing in neighboring Southeast Asian countries. 

Fertility Differentials.   Survey data show that the large differential between urban and rural fertility levels is widening even further.  While the total fertility rate in urban areas declined by about 15 percent over the last five years (from 3.5 to 3.0), the rate among rural women barely declined at all (from 4.8 to 4.7).  Consequently, rural women give birth to almost two children more than urban women. 

Significant differences in fertility levels by region still exist. For example, fertility is more than twice as high in Eastern Visayas and Bicol Regions (with total fertility rates well over 5 births per woman) than in Metro Manila (with a rate of 2.5 births per woman).

Fertility levels are closely related to women's education.  Women with no formal education give birth to an average of 5.0 children in their lifetime, compared to 2.9 for women with at least some college education.  Women with either elementary or high school education have intermediate fertility rates.

Family Size Norms.   One reason that fertility has not fallen more rapidly is that women in the Philippines still want moderately large families.  Only one-third of women say they would ideally like to have one or two children, while another third state a desire for three children.  The remaining third say they would choose four or more children.  Overall, the mean ideal family size among all women is 3.2 children, identical to the mean found in 1993.

Unplanned Fertility.   Another reason for the relatively high fertility level is that unplanned pregnancies are still common in the Philippines.  Overall, 45 percent of births in the three years prior to the survey were reported to be unplanned; 27 percent were mistimed (wanted later) and 18 percent were unwanted.  If unwanted births could be eliminated altogether, the total fertility rate in the Philippines would be 2.7 births per woman instead of the actual level of 3.7.

Age at First Birth.   Fertility rates would be even higher if Filipino women did not have a pattern of late childbearing.  The median age at first birth is 23 years in the Philippines, considerably higher than in most other countries.  Another factor that holds down the overall level of fertility is the fact that about 9 or 10 percent of women never give birth, higher than the level of 3-4 percent found in most developing countries.


Increasing Use of Contraception.   A major cause of declining fertility in the Philippines has been the gradual but fairly steady increase in contraceptive use over the last three decades.  The contraceptive prevalence rate has tripled since 1968, from 15 to 47 percent of married women. Although contraceptive use has increased since the 1993 NDS (from 40 to 47 percent of married women), comparison with the series of nationally representative Family Planning Surveys indicates that there has been a levelling-off in family planning use in recent years.

Method Mix.   Use of traditional methods of family planning has always accounted for a relatively high proportion of overall use in the Philippines, and data from the 1998 NDHS show the proportion holding steady at about 40 percent. The dominant changes in the “method mix” since 1993 have been an increase in use of injectables and traditional methods such as calendar rhythm and withdrawal and a decline in the proportions using female sterilization. Despite the decline in the latter, female sterilization still is the most widely used method, followed by the pill.

Differentials in Family Planning Use.  Differentials in current use of family planning in the 16 administrative regions of the country are large, ranging from 16 percent of married women in ARMM to 55 percent of those in Southern Mindanao and Central Luzon.  Contraceptive use varies considerably by education of women.  Only 15 percent of married women with no formal education are using a method, compared to half of those with some secondary school.  The urban-rural gap in contraceptive use is moderate (51 vs. 42 percent, respectively).

Knowledge of Contraception.   Knowledge of contraceptive methods and supply sources has been almost universal in the Philippines for some time and the NDHS results indicate that 99 percent of currently married women age 15-49 have heard of at least one method of family planning.  More than 9 in 10 married women know the pill, IUD, condom, and female sterilization, while about 8 in 10 have heard of injectables, male sterilization, rhythm, and withdrawal.  Knowledge of injectables has increased far more than any other method, from 54 percent of married women in 1993 to 89 percent in 1998.

Unmet Need for Family Planning.   Unmet need for family planning services has declined since 1993.  Data from the 1993 NDS show that 26 percent of currently married women were in need of services, compared with 20 percent in the 1998 NDHS.  A little under half of the unmet need is comprised of women who want to space their next birth, while just over half is for women who do not want any more children (limiters).  If all women who say they want to space or limit their children were to use methods, the contraceptive prevalence rate could be increased from 47 percent to 70 percent of married women.  Currently, about three-quarters of this "total demand" for family planning is being met.

Discontinuation Rates.   One challenge for the family planning program is to reduce the high levels of contraceptive discontinuation.  NDHS data indicate that about 40 percent of contraceptive users in the Philippines stop using within 12 months of starting, almost one-third of whom stop because of an unwanted pregnancy (i.e., contraceptive failure).  Discontinuation rates vary by method.  Not surprisingly, the rates for the condom (60 percent), withdrawal (46 percent), and the pill (44 percent) are considerably higher than for the IUD (14 percent).  However, discontinuation rates for injectables are relatively high, considering that one dose is usually effective for three months.  Fifty-two percent of injection users discontinue within one year of starting, a rate that is higher than for the pill.


  Childhood Mortality.   Survey results show that although the infant mortality rate remains unchanged, overall mortality of children under five has declined somewhat in recent years.  Under-five mortality declined from 54 deaths per 1,000 births in 1988-92 to 48 for the period 1993-97.  The infant mortality rate remained stable at about 35 per 1,000 births.

Childhood Vaccination Coverage.   The 1998 NDHS results show that 73 percent of children 12-23 months are fully vaccinated by the date of the interview, almost identical to the level of 72 percent recorded in the 1993 NDS.  When the data are restricted to vaccines received before the child’s first birthday, however, only 65 percent of children age 12-23 months can be considered to be fully vaccinated. 

Childhood Health.   The NDHS provides some data on childhood illness and treatment.  Approximately one in four-- children under age five had a fever and 13 percent had respiratory illness in the two weeks before the survey.  Of these, 58 percent were taken to a health facility for treatment.  Seven percent of children under five were reported to have had diarrhea in the two weeks preceeding the survey.  The fact that four-fifths of children with diarrhea received some type of oral rehydration therapy (fluid made from an ORS packet, recommended homemade fluid, or increased fluids) is encouraging.

Breastfeeding Practices.  Almost all  Filipino babies (88 percent) are breastfed for some time, with- a median duration of breastfeeding of 13 months.  Although breastfeeding has beneficial effects on both the child and the mother, NDHS data indicate that supplementation of breastfeeding with other liquids and foods occurs too early in the Philippines.  For example, among newborns less than two months of age, 19 percent were already receiving supplemental foods or liquids other than water.

Maternal Health Care.   NDHS data point to several areas regarding maternal health care in which improvements could be made.  Although most Filipino mothers (86 percent) receive prenatal care from a doctor, nurse, or midwife, tetanus toxoid coverage is far from universal and has been declining somewhat.  The proportion of recent births for which the mother reported receiving two or more tetanus toxoid vaccinations during pregnancy declined from 42 in 1993 to 38 percent.  Moreover, two-thirds of births in the Philippines are delivered at home; consequently only 56 percent receive asistance at delivery from a doctor, nurse, or midwife  and 41 percent are assisted by traditional birth attendants.  Proper medical attention during pregnancy and hygienic conditions during delivery can reduce the risk of complications and infections that can cause death or serious illness for either the mother or the newborn.  Somewhat more encouraging is the fact that for 75 percent of recent births, mothers reported having received iron tablets during pregnancy and in 57 percent of cases, they received iodine tablets during pregnancy.  Maternal mortality has remained low at approximately 200 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.


Health Care Financing.   NDHS data indicate that in 40 percent of households, at least one member of the household belongs to a health care financing scheme or an insurance plan.  Over 90 percent of such households belong to Medicare. 

Knowledge of Herbal Medicines.   The Department of Health has endorsed 10 herbal medicines as being scientifically proven effective for treatment of specific illnesses and conditions.  NDHS data show that although awareness of some of these herbs is widespread, knowledge about the specific uses of the herbs is quite limited.  For example, although 81 percent of household respondents recognized ampalaya, only one in 20 know that it is useful in treating diabetes and only 6 percent of the 75 percent of respondents who are familiar with sambong correctly said that it is used as a diuretic.  However, knowledge of bayabas is high; 97 percent of household respondents had heard of it and 81 percent know that it is used to clean wounds. 

Knowledge of Healthy Lifestyle.   NDHS data indicate quite high general awareness  regarding health issues.  For example, most household respondents say that they watch their nutrition or exercise to stay healthy.  Similarly, a majority of household respondents are aware that smoking causes lung diseases such as cancer.  Over 90 percent of respondents have heard of dengue fever and  two-thirds of them say that dengue can be prevented by destroying the breeding sites of mosquitos.  However, misconceptions about leprosy and tuberculosis abound, with 21 percent of respondents knowing that leprosy is transmitted by skin and 11 percent by airborne droplets, and only one in six respondents knowing that tuberculosis is caused by a germ or bacteria.