Hooray, more support for Melinda Gates’ contraceptive planning! New research estimates that contraceptive use saves the lives of more than a quarter of a million women each year. That’s right: condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, etc do more than just prevent unwanted babies: they actually save women’s lives all over the world, especially in developing countries.
The research was announced just before the London Summit on Family Planning, an event that’s supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation expects to fund an initiative that will give 120 million women worldwide access to contraceptives. The Summit’s website estimates that, in the developing world, there are “over 75 million unintended pregnancies every year. This puts women and girls at serious risk of death or disability during pregnancy and childbirth.” If these women had access to contraception, they would be able to space out their pregnancies and plan their families.
The research, led by John Cleland of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that spacing out pregnancies is beneficial to both mothers and children:
In developing countries, the risk of prematurity and low birthweight doubles when conception occurs within six months of a previous birth, and children born within two years of an elder sibling are 60-percent more likely to die in infancy than are those born more than two years after their sibling.
The paper also detailed that in 2008, over 355,000 women died while giving birth or during illegal or dangerous abortions. But in the same year, more than 250,000 deaths were prevented because contraceptive use reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies. If more funding is given to fund contraceptive use worldwide, just think of how many more lives might be saved. And it’s not just about saving lives, either—by giving a woman the right to choose when and if she has a baby, her quality of life is improved, as well.
I’m following along with the London Family Planning Summit on Twitter by searching the hashtag #fpsummit. If you’re interested in the future of global reproductive rights, you should follow too. Another way to get the latest news from the summit is to follow Jodi Jacobson, the awesome editor of Reproductive Health Reality Check, who is in attendance and live-tweeting.