PIP: The benefits of various-sized families in Malaysia were discussed by several women and supplemented with official statements on family planning (FP). The Director of the National Population and Family Development, Dr. Raj Karim, advised that maternal health is jeopardized when women have more than five children. About 30% of reproductive age women in Malaysia have five or more children. A Federation of FP Associations spokesperson agreed that women should be advised of the dangers of bearing over five children, of the importance of spacing births two to four years apart, and of the ideal age of childbearing (21-39 years). The government lacks an official policy on family size. The government position is, however, compatible with Islamic teachings on spacing in order to protect the health of the mother and child. Islamic law does not permit sterilization or abortion. The "fatwas" of Islamic teaching may have been misconstrued by those not using any form of contraception. Dr. Karim, who has five children, reported that having a large family can be difficult for a woman with a job, a career, and a husband or when both parents work. Most Malays desire large families. The average Malay family size was 4.1 children in 1990; Malaysian Chinese have fertility of 2.3 children and Malaysian Indians have 2.6 children. People say that the benefits outweigh the hardships of a large family.