Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Worldwide, Women Still Lacking Access to Contraception

Birth control can be a hot button in political circles, but there is no doubt that family planning cuts billions in healthcare costs and saves lives around the world, says a report from the United Nations Population Fund.

In 1994, the international community got together and agreed that family planning should be accessible to all who want it, regardless of where they live. However, the most recent research shows that there are still millions of women in both developing and developed countries that do not have this access. They either don’t have the information and education that would allow them to decide if they would like to use contraception, or they don’t have physical access to it.

Women who bear many children within a short time have higher risk of staying in poverty. The women have to make limited funds stretch, have limited access to education, which could help their children be healthier in the long run, and the women have limited opportunities to earn money. Poverty often leads to higher mortality rates.

A study published in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in 2005 found that when pregnancies were spaced by three to five years, infant mortality could be reduced as much as 46 percent in the developing world. According to the Population Fund report, “A study from Colombia, for example, illustrates that the local availability of clinics and hospital beds and increased family planning expenditures per capita are associated with lower child mortality as well as lower fertility across women in urban areas. In the Philippines, the presence of a family planning programme had direct effects on children’s health. Improved access to reproductive health, improved spacing of pregnancies, and a reduction in the number of risky pregnancies in Bangladesh all combined to reduce child mortality and improve child survival.”

Financially, billions of dollars could be saved globally if family planning were the norm for those who want it. The report states that a $4.1 million investment in family planning for women in the developing world would eliminate the almost $6 billion spent on maternal and newborn healthcare costs.

Sadly, the plight of women and newborn health isn’t a popular topic. While millions of dollars are put into research and treatment of infectious diseases and others, like cancer, reproductive health is far behind. “Sexual and reproductive health has lost ground to ‘competing’ health issues, such as infectious diseases, because the field has failed to persuade power brokers — such as policymakers and donors — to increase funds,” wrote the report’s authors.


Model Christy Turlington established Every Mother Counts in 2010. Check out her organization to learn more about maternal health and poverty.

Maternal health ties in with my work with Sepsis Alliance. Women who die in childbirth or not long after often die of sepsis (Sepsis and Pregnancy), as happened just recently in Ireland, to Savita Halappanavar. Women need to be aware of their health and they need to be in control of their health. Please help spread the word.