Why women need access to contraception – PART ONE

The benefits of contraception are far reaching and comprehensive. They have the potential to influence all of the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals, adopted by UN member states to achieve by 2030, aim to ‘end poverty, protect the planet, achieve good health and wellbeing and ensure prosperity for all’. These goals can be viewed here.

The next 3-part series of posts will explore the important outcomes that can be achieved by global access to contraceptives as they relate to the Sustainable Development Goals. The first theme of this series is:


For most women, including women who want to have children, contraception is not an option; it is a basic health care necessity.” – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter during a speech to Congress, 2009

Contraception is a basic health care necessity. Access to contraception can prevent often-fatal pregnancy related health outcomes in mothers.

Around the world, 600 000 women die each year from pregnancy related complications¹. The causes of these deaths range from severe bleeding and infections from after childbirth and high blood pressure, to unsafe abortion complications. Of these deaths, it has been estimated that at least ⅓ can be attributed to the lack of contraceptive services.

Post-pregnancy, women who have had carried through unintended births are more likely to develop postpartum depression and their overall health prognosis is worse than women who planned the birth of their child.

Preventing these dangerous complications, through providing access to contraceptive services is especially important for adolescents. Pregnancy is recognised as one of the leading causes of death for 15-19 year old females globally². In fact, teenage girls are twice as likely to die from pregnancy related complications compared to mothers aged 20 years and over. Unsafe abortions are also one of the major pregnancy related complications and a significant cause of adolescent maternal mortality. For example in Nigeria, complications from unsafe abortions make up 70% of all deaths of girls under 192. This pattern can also be observed in other countries. Access to contraception directly addresses this issue.


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Beyond the health effects for mothers, unintended pregnancies may also impact on the infant’s health. Contraception allows for the prevention of unsuitable pregnancies, which is a significant cause of infant mortality¹. For example, infants of younger mothers are more likely to die before their first birthday compared to those born to older mothers¹. Complications from delivery, pre-term birth and low birth weight all play a role in the high mortality rate for these infants.

From a public health standpoint, contraception also plays a role in reducing the number of children who are infected by diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, in utero. It reduces the possibility of HIV+ women unintended pregnancies and transmitting HIV to the child. This has been proven effective, with 577,000 unintended pregnancies prevented each year in women who have HIV¹. This also applies for other infections that can be transmitted from mother to child, such as Zika.

As discussed in this post, good health is one of the leading benefits of contraception. Like with most health issues, it is those from less developed countries who are more likely to experience these poor health outcomes from unintended pregnancies and therefore are worse off. Therefore, it is imperative that these women be given access to contraceptive services, so that the prevalence of those outcomes are reduced.


  1. World Health Organisation. Family Planning/Contraception [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2016 [cited 2017 Feb 18]. Available from:http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs351/en/
  1. World Health Organisation. Adolescent pregnancy [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2016 [cited 2017 Feb 18]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs364/en/



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