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Helping women decide when to have babies

Global efforts to improve the health and wellbeing in the developing world are paying off as fewer children are dying before they reach their fifth birthday and life expectancy rates continue to increase.

However, one area where insufficient progress is being made is family planning.

There are 215 million women around the world who would like to delay or avoid pregnancy but do not have access to modern family planning methods.

Each year there are 75 million unintended pregnancies and 22 million girls and women have unsafe abortions.

Lack of control

Women’s lack of choice or control over their fertility is not only a violation of their rights but has consequences for maternal, newborn and child mortality too.

Most deaths in pregnancy or childbirth in developing countries are entirely avoidable, yet more than 350,000 women and girls die every year.

For every woman who dies, an additional 30 more suffer a debilitating illness or permanent disability.

Delaying the first pregnancy and allowing adequate time between births also significantly reduces the risks to both mothers and children of dying during childbirth.

It also reduces the risk during the 28 days after birth – a period that accounts for 40% of all child deaths globally.

Empowerment equals survival

Where women are empowered and able to control the timing and spacing of births, they are likely to have fewer children.

In turn, those children are more likely to survive their early years, and grow up healthy and properly nourished.

As families become smaller, parents are able to invest more in their children’s education and development.

Save the Children has extensive experience in family planning and reproductive health with a focus on reaching under-served populations through community-based approaches.

Bringing in the community

We know that when communities are engaged in defining and supporting quality health services that are delivered locally, they are more likely to carry on using family planning methods.

  • In Pakistan, we work closely with the community to better understand practical and cultural barriers, such as men’s role in reproductive health decision making, in order to improve reproductive health for women.
  •  Uganda and Ethiopia we’ve helped to test the feasibility and acceptability of injectable contraceptives and linked communities to family planning providers.
  • We work closely with religious leaders in Mali, Guinea and Bangladesh and use literacy groups in Nepal to increase awareness and use of family planning methods.

Proving more and better choices for women is becoming a major priority for many countries and development partners.

In the UK, the Department for International Development (DFID) has committed to help the world’s poorest people to change their lives by enabling 10 million more women to use modern methods of family planning by 2015 and prevent more than 5 million unintended pregnancies.

As the global population approaches the 7 billion mark, DFID is highlighting the importance of family planning and showing how UK aid and organisations like Save the Children are changing lives.

To find out more go the Changing Lives section of the DFID website.

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