The right to family planning

Written by Rosie Smith, Journal Development Editor, Reproductive Health

Every year the lack of access to contraceptives leads to 60 million unwanted pregnancies, 22 million unsafe abortions and 3 million infant deaths; the majority of which occur in developing countries. Women all around the globe are unable to choose when they fall pregnant, nor control the size of their family, because contraception is simply not accessible. Reducing fertility would not only prevent maternal deaths each year but could significantly contribute to eradicating extreme poverty, promoting the empowerment of women and ensure environmental and economic sustainability. Initiatives like Every Woman, Every Child and the 5th Millennium  Development Goal advocate wider access to contraception in developing nations and providing women with the opportunity to work, learn new skills and ultimately generate income.

With the population of the world rapidly growing, the social and economic benefits of contraception have never been so imperative. The barriers to knowledge and the successfully supply of contraception varies from country to country. A study recently published in Reproductive Health highlighted the potential for scaling up family planning services to address these barriers, such as, weaknesses in commodities, logistic management, geographical inaccessibility, limitations in health worker skills and numbers, legislation, and religious and cultural ideologies. Upscale modelling of initiatives such as task shifting and local staff recruitment, streamlining supply chains and establishment of integrated community health teams demonstrated a potential reduction in maternal mortality of up to 28%.

One of the most direct repercussions of projects such as family planning initiatives is the direct effect on maternal and newborn mortality. Increased contraception has reduced maternal mortality and is if contraception is provided. (Source: ‘The economic consequences of reproductive health and family planning’, The Lancet).

The procurement of family planning for all women through the breaking of barriers to contraception will have far reaching effects. By reducing the number of pregnancies, complications associated with parturition are naturally reduced,  in turn diminishing death through unsafe abortion practices and the associated dangers of high parities.

To read more on this topic and for other studies of this nature, please visit BioMed Central’s open access journal Reproductive Health.

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