A report released earlier today by the Guttmacher Institute is shedding light on the need for increased contraceptive access in developing regions all across the globe. The study, “Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Adolescents,” was published by a team of researchers lead by Jacqueline E. Darroch, Ph.D.
The researcher team found that of the 252 million adolescent women aged 15-19 in developing nations, 38 million are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy. However, 23 million of these sexually active adolescent women have unmet needs for modern contraceptive options. 84 percent of the adolescents who lack access to modern contraceptives use no contraceptives at all. The remaining 16 percent rely on traditional methods such as withdrawal and periodic abstinence.
“Making it possible for young women to avoid unintended pregnancy and childbearing until they feel ready to become mothers can have a profound impact,” said Darroch in the report. “It allows them to achieve healthier lives for themselves and their children, more education and better job opportunities. The positive impact of investing in sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent women is undeniable.”
So what exactly would such an investment look like?
The research team estimates that an investment of just $21 per year on each sexually active adolescent woman with unmet contraceptive needs could result in 6 million fewer unintended pregnancies. This constitutes a decline of nearly 60 percent worldwide.
Furthermore, the same investment would result in an estimated 3.2 million fewer abortions, roughly 2.4 of which would be performed in unsafe conditions. The study also estimated that this investment would result in a 71 percent decline in maternal deaths related to unintended pregnancies.
Based on their findings, the research team called on policymakers to devote additional resources to help meet the contraceptive needs of adolescent women in developing nations. In addition, they stressed the importance of taking steps to prevent human rights violations such as child marriage and sexual abuse which can contribute to unplanned pregnancies in these regions as well.