Lives saved worldwide with birth control

Effective use of birth control alone could eliminate the 47,000 maternal deaths caused each year by unsafe abortions, and thereby reduce worldwide maternal mortality rates by 13 percent, according to a series of new research papers published in the Lancet.

In fact, use of birth control could save the lives of 104,000 women and infants each year overall. Every one percent rise in contraceptive use could mean avoiding 4.3 maternal deaths for each 100,000 live births each year.

“Vaccination prevents childhood mortality, contraception prevents maternal mortality,” said Saifuddin Ahmed, lead author of a study on contraception and averting maternal deaths.

“The substantial effect of contraception on health is often overlooked by medical specialists,” commented John Cleland, lead author of a paper on contraception and health in the Lancet series.

Unmet demands

The demand for birth control is especially large and unmet in sub-Saharan African countries. According to the new research, more than 25 percent of married women in sub-Saharan Africa had unmet birth control needs in 2009, a figure twice as high as the global average.

“One in four women in sub-Saharan Africa would wish to delay the next pregnancy or stop childbearing altogether, but they’re not using any method of family planning,” added Alex Ezeh, lead author of a study on population trends and policy options.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 women in each country were asked whether family planning options were available to them, and ideally how many children they would plan to have, Ezeh told theGrio. Results were that women in sub-Saharan Africa would have planned for at least one fewer child than the current average of five children they have now.