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Access to contraceptives best way to cut maternal and newborn deaths in developing world, advocates argue

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It wasn't just riots that came with last week's summits in Ontario; there were a few agreements formed as well. Leaders of the G8 nations pledged $5 billion over five years to reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths worldwide.

As Nature reports, many argue the best way to spend the money would be to create better access to contraceptives:

In a report called 'Adding It Up' released last December, the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization based in New York that focuses on sexual and reproductive health, makes the case for doubling current expenditure for family planning from $3.1 billion to $6.7 billion annually. It argues that contraception is central to reducing not only the maternal death rate, but child mortality as well.

"What we found is that doubling current spending on birth control could reduce maternal death by 70% and newborn death by 44%," says Susan Cohen, the institute's director of government affairs. "Helping women prevent pregnancies that they themselves don't want means more resources will be freed up for those women having wanted pregnancies who may need obstetrical care." Cohen also points out that saving mothers' lives saves the lives of their existing children as well: many studies have shown that children are much more likely to die after losing their mother.

Each year, approximately 342,900 mothers die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, while 3.6 millions newborns die within their first month of life. About half those deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for only 11 percent of global population. The World Health Organization estimates (.pdf) that 215 million women in the developing world want contraceptive services but don’t have access to them.

Photo by magnusfranklin

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