Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.
The issue of contraception is a continuing concern around the globe. This concern is elevated among women of reproductive age who live in developing countries and can’t afford to sustain large families nor have access to adequate health care. Providing couples, especially women, in third world countries with access to effective contraceptives would improve the health status of individuals and the nation as a whole. There are numerous reasons and advantages to improving the availability, access, and use of contraceptive for women in third world countries.
More women are seeking effective contraception in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This number has risen from 716 million in 2003 to 867 million in 2012 and keeps rising. Most of this need for contraception was among women in the poorest countries, which also saw the highest population growth within this period (Guttmacher Institute, 2013). These nations also had the worst maternal and child health outcomes with very high rates of morbidity and mortality.
A report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) in 2012 stated that greater access to family planning methods would save developing countries more than $11 billion a year. These savings would come from reduced costs of care for mothers and newborn babies. The report also states that about $2 billion a year would provide enough contraceptives to meet the needs of developing countries. This point is further buttressed by the fact that having fewer children has been very beneficial for developed countries both financially and with regards to health outcomes.
Using Nigeria as an example, the UNPF study revealed that if the fertility rate fell by one child per woman, the economy would grow by at least $30 billion!
In 2012, the United Nations declared access to contraception to be a ‘universal human right’. However, this human right isn’t being realized for millions of women around the world especially for women in developing countries. Sadly, these women are continually faced with difficult choices and serious consequences of unintended and unwanted pregnancies.
The agencies and organizations that are trying to empower women in these nations are faced with constant social, political, and religious oppositions. They are also faced with persisting negative cultural ideas about contraception. Real change requires community-wide, multifaceted interventions, life skills, access to youth-friendly services, women-friendly policies, and the support of the country’s leadership. Changing negative perceptions of modern contraceptive methods would go a long way in improving women’s health by preventing unwanted pregnancies and even reducing the burden of STIs.
Saving lives, improving the quality of life, and empowering women is a goal that can be achieved in developing nations with continuing effort and dedication. My firsthand experience of this issue has really made it a very important topic to me and I would love to hear about your experiences and comments with regards to women’s health in developing countries.