SEATTLE — Contraception in developing countries is a practical method for reducing poverty. But many women, men and families still do not have access to family planning and contraception.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, women are considered to have an unmet need for contraception if “they are sexually active and want to avoid becoming pregnant but are not using contraception.” In 2014, about 225 million women in developing countries were considered to have an unmet need for contraception. Of these women, about 160 million were using no protection and about 65 million were using traditional, non-modern methods. Countries with the highest unmet need include Haiti, Ghana and Uganda.
The Guttmacher Institute found that women who do not use contraception often cite that they do not have enough sex to need protection, that they, or someone they know, do not support contraception, that they are concerned about the side effects, that breastfeeding and postpartum amenorrhea is enough protection and/or that they are sub-fecund or infecund. Many of these women have the false “perception of being at low risk for pregnancy.”
Additionally, many social, logistical and educational barriers prevent women’s access to contraception in developing countries. Family opposition, travel restrictions and lack of knowledge are problematic for women and families. Unmarried women, adolescents, urban poor, rural populations, sex workers and HIV positive women face the most barriers.
Women, men and families need to be educated about the positive effects of contraception use. Promoting family planning and contraception in developing countries can do the following:
Reducing unintended pregnancies and increasing spacing between pregnancies has a direct impact on the health of women and children. Birth control can empower women and give them the choice of when to start a family and when to grow that family. Access to family planning has the potential to prevent 52 million unintended pregnancies annually.
Reduce maternal mortality
The absence of contraception in developing countries increases the likelihood for adolescent pregnancies, which are associated with increased maternal health risks. Pregnancy complications are among the leading causes of death of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 globally. Without birth control, women and families have less control in family size. Studies show that women with four or more children are more at risk for maternal mortality.
Less spacing between pregnancies increases the potential health risks for women. Increased contraception access could prevent 70,000 pregnancy-related maternal deaths each year.
Reduce infant mortality
Reducing unintended pregnancies and increasing spacing between pregnancies is important for the health of newborns. Adolescent pregnancies, minimal spacing between pregnancies and high number of pregnancies affect the fetus and newborn and can contribute to the world’s high infant mortality rates.
Condoms provide dual protection for women and couples who want to prevent pregnancies and prevent the spread of STIs and HIV/AIDS. This form of contraceptive can prevent pregnancies in HIV positive women, reducing mother to infant transmission and decreasing the numbers of HIV positive babies and orphans.
Empower people and enhance education
Family planning services and access to contraception allows families to make informed decisions about when to have children. By preventing unintended and early pregnancies, birth control gives women the power and opportunity to attend and finish school. Autonomy for women can also improve earning power and household power, strengthening families’ economic security and well-being. With smaller families, parents have more time for each child. This investment can increase future opportunities and success.
Bring economic benefits
Family planning reduces the number of dependents and increases the number of potential workers, boosting economic productivity. Furthermore, according to the United Nations Population Fund, “for every dollar invested in contraception, the cost of pregnancy-related care is reduced by $2.30.”
Slow population growth
In developing countries with high fertility rates, slowing the population growth is vital to better the economy, the environment and global/national/regional development. Preventing unintended pregnancies and controlling family size through family planning and birth control is a critical step.
Contraception is the most cost effective health intervention to improve family planning and reduce disease transmission. The gaps in access between developed nations and developing nations and the rich and the poor within those nations continue to perpetuate inequality and a cycle of poverty.
Breaking the cycle can improve societies and economies globally. To improve access to family planning services and increase use of contraception in developing countries, it is important to improve access to a broad mix of contraception methods that can appeal to a variety of women and families and to improve availability of competent health care providers that can properly inform.
Countries also need the means to educate and the political will to make these advances. When making efforts to improve access, organizations must remember to be sensitive to cultural and national contexts and to consider economic, geographic and age disparities within countries.
– Francesca Montalto