Assessing the role of family planning in reducing maternal mortality

Stud Fam Plann. May-Jun 1987;18(3):128-43.

Abstract

It is widely believed that family planning has important benefits for both maternal and child health. Despite this, little work has been done to quantify the potential effect of family planning in reducing maternal mortality. This paper assesses the impact of family planning in averting maternal deaths, and discusses the overall ability of risk strategies to address the bulk of maternal mortality. The practical difficulties of providing effective contraception to populations with high maternal mortality are addressed, and the need for maternal health care services as an adjunct to useful family planning programs is emphasized. Although family planning cannot by itself cause a substantial reduction in risk of pregnancy, the combined strategies of general fertility reduction, abortion services, and family planning for high-risk groups might effectively address about half of all maternal mortality in the developing world. Pregnancy and delivery care have the potential for saving large numbers of lives with appropriate interventions. It is concluded that reproductive risks can be reduced only by preventing unwanted pregnancies and protecting maternal health during wanted ones.

PIP: It is estimated that at least 500,000 women die each year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth (WHO,1986). This estimate is probably much too low since areas with high maternal mortality correspond to areas that lack adequate health reporting systems. Increasing attention to women's reproductive health, and to primary health care in general, underscores both the importance of the issue of maternal mortality and the need for better data. Beyond the immediate loss of life, maternal mortality exerts a devastating effect on the family. Frequently, infant and maternal deaths occur simultaneously. It is widely believed that family planning has important benefits for both maternal and child health. Despite this, little work has been done to quantify the potential effect of family planning in reducing maternal mortality. This paper assesses the impact of family planning in averting maternal deaths, and discusses the overall ability of risk strategies to address the bulk of maternal mortality. The practical difficulties of providing effective contraception to populations with high maternal mortality are addressed, and the need for maternal health care services as an adjunct to useful family planning programs is emphasized. Although family planning cannot by itself cause a substantial reduction in risk of pregnancy, the combined strategies of general fertility reduction, abortion services, and family planning for high-risk groups might effectively address about 1/2 of all maternal mortality in the developing world. Pregnancy and delivery care have the potential for saving large numbers of lives with appropriate interventions. Reproductive risks can be reduced only by preventing unwanted pregnancies and protecting maternal health during wanted ones.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal
  • Developing Countries*
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Maternal Health Services
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Parity
  • Risk