Massive shortfall in modern contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies
A new study published by the Guttmacher Institute finds that contraceptive services and maternal and newborn health services fall far short of needs in developing countries. Published under the title “Adding It Up: Investing in Contraception and Maternal and Newborn Health, 2017” the study indicates that some 214 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but for a variety of reasons, are not using a modern method of contraception.
In addition, tens of millions of women do not receive the basic pregnancy and delivery care they need to protect their health and that of their newborns: An estimated 50 million women giving birth this year will receive fewer than four antenatal care visits, and 35 million women giving birth will not deliver in a health facility.
Though progress has been slow, there has been a steady increase in the use of modern contraceptive methods in developing countries, even as the number of women of reproductive age has grown. As a result, the number of women with an unmet need for contraception has declined over the past three years, from 225 million in 2014.
However, ongoing investments in family planning are essential to maintain these gains and make further progress. Ensuring that women with an unmet need for modern contraception overcome barriers to effective contraceptive use is crucial, since they account for 84% of all unintended pregnancies in developing regions.
“Meeting the need for family planning and pregnancy-related health care in developing regions will have a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of women and their families,” stated Ann Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Far too many women and newborns still lack access to these essential services.”
Further findings indicate that in developing countries only 61% of expecting mothers visited antenatal care centres four times or more but on the positive side, it noted that as much as 73% of newborns are now delivered in a formal health facility. “Wide disparities exist across regions. For example, these proportions are lowest in Africa, where fewer than half of pregnant women receive four or more antenatal visits and just over half give birth in a health facility. By contrast, in Latin America and the Caribbean, close to nine in 10 women receive four or more antenatal visits, and more than nine in 10 women give birth in a facility.”
Fully meeting contraceptive and maternal healthcare needs can be achieved by spending US$52.5 billion annually, or just US$8.39 per person per year (in 2017 U.S. dollars). The new research shows that meeting the needs for modern contraception and pregnancy-related care together is a cost-saving investment.
Investments in contraceptive services substantially lower the cost of maternal healthcare by decreasing the incidence of unintended pregnancies. As a result, for each additional dollar spent on contraceptive services above the current level, the cost of pregnancy-related care is reduced by US$2.30.
“Investing in both contraceptive care and essential maternal and newborn care has the greatest impact on preventing needless deaths of women and newborns,” said Dr. Jacqueline E. Darroch, senior fellow at the Guttmacher Institute and lead author of the study. “Maternal deaths would drop to a quarter of current levels and newborn deaths would drop to less than one-fifth of current levels with an investment of just US$8.39 per person per year.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, this modest investment will reduce unwanted pregnancies by 75%, abortions by 74%, newborn mortality by 80% and maternal deaths by 73%.