Better contraception could save 100,000 lives

 

More than 100,000 women could be saved from dying prematurely every year by simply improving access to family planning information and contraception, new research reveals.

Too many children, too close together substantially increases the risk of maternal deaths, premature births and infant mortality, yet millions of girls and women have no control over their pregnancies. Only one in five sexually active women in sub Saharan Africa use contraception compared to 75 per cent in developed countries.

Family planning has been neglected for decades, but has a crucial role to play if the Millennium Development Goals for maternal health, eradication of poverty, education and gender equality are to be achieved, according to a ground-breaking series of articles published by The Lancet.  It is the single easiest way to prevent maternal deaths and improve the life-chances and long-term potential of children.

The importance of giving women the right to choose how many and when to have children will be recognised on Wednesday when the Prime Minister David Cameron and Belinda Gates are expected to announce substantial new funds for family planning programmes , placing it at the centre of future development policies. The announcement will be made on World Population Day during an international summit on family planning being hosted by the Department for International Development.

Universal access to vaccinations against killer childhood diseases is universally accepted as part of the Holy Grail of global efforts to slash infant mortality rates. It has justifiably therefore, dominated the attention of health experts, scientists, governments and philanthropists over the past two decades.

Family planning on the other hand, has been considered too simple, unsexy and controversial -  given past human rights abuses stemming from population control measures - and so has been scandalously neglected in comparison.

These are the thoughts of an eminent group of scientists, researchers and reproductive health experts gathering in London for the summit, who hope to make the case for the “rebirth of family planning”.

Professor John Cleland, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the link between the survival of women, infants and children has not been properly recognised.

 “Thousands of women die unnecessarily from pregnancies that they did not want to have, and that is a scandal.

“The spacing between pregnancies is crucially important: children born within two years of an elder sibling are 60 per cent more likely to die before their first birthday infancy that those born two or three years later… The risk of the older child dying increases by 40 per cent, so for older and younger siblings there is a double jeopardy.”

He added: “Family planning programmes need to make contraception a hum drum, everyday part of life rather than something that is feared.”

Increasing contraceptive use in developing countries has already cut maternal deaths by 40 per cent over the past two decade. But there is plenty of room for improvement.

In 2008, 342,000 women died from pregnancy and child birth complications; without contraception the number of deaths would have been almost double, according to the research by Dr Saifuddin Ahmed, from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Dealing with unmet need, that is providing information and contraception to those women who want it, would cut deaths by almost 30 per cent. It could single-handedly eliminate the 50,000 deaths from unsafe abortion ever year.

“Vaccinations save children’s lives; contraception saves women’s lives,” said Dr Ahmed.

Strong government leadership has been proven to minimise the impact of religious opposition to contraception, according to Dr Alex Ezeh, from the African Population and Health Research Centre in Nairobi.

The series of research papers also includes evidence of potential economic and environmental benefits of meeting contraction needs.

Each 1 per cent rise of carbon dioxide emissions is associated with a per cent increase in population size, according to Dr Leiwen Jiang, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. This means CO2 emissions could increase by a staggering 60 per cent if the united Nation’s highest population growth estimates prove to be correct. 

Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet said past abuses had to be acknowledged. “This is not about population control, it is about increasing choices for women through better information and services around family planning.

“There is an extraordinary degree of consensus around this message across the scientific, advocacy and political communities. We are on the cusp of a new social movement for family planning… there is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and put us on a sustainable path and improve the lives of women and children.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003