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The standard approach for measuring unmet need for family planning calculates actual, physiological unmet need and is useful for tracking changes at the population level. We propose to supplement it with an alternate approach that categorizes individuals by their perceived need for family planning: real met need (current users of a modern method), perceived met need (current users of a traditional method), real no need, perceived no need (those with a physiological need for family planning who perceive no need), and perceived unmet need (those who realize they have a need but do not use a method).

The suggested approach for calculating unmet need supplements the standard calculations and is helpful for designing programs to better address women’s and men’s individual needs in diverse contexts.