Provision of Essential Sexual & Reproductive Health Care Would Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, Unsafe Abortions & Maternal Deaths

New research released today by the Guttmacher Institute finds that 218 million women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have an unmet need for modern contraception. In the 132 countries studied, the need is disproportionately high among adolescents aged 15–19 who want to avoid a pregnancy (43%, compared with 24% among all women aged 15­–49).

Fully meeting the needs for sexual and reproductive health care would result in immense health gains, including a reduction of about two-thirds in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. Commitment to providing this essential care for all women is critical to upholding sexual and reproductive rights during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, called Adding It Up, documents the sexual and reproductive health needs of 1.6 billion women of reproductive age (15–49) in 2019, the positive impacts of meeting those needs, and the costs associated with improving and expanding services.

Each year, 111 million unintended pregnancies occur in LMICs, accounting for 49% of all pregnancies in those countries. Millions of people who give birth lack adequate pregnancy-related and newborn care, including 16 million women who do not receive necessary services to treat major obstetric complications. More than 35 million women have abortions in unsafe conditions and 133 million women need but do not receive treatment for one of the four major curable STIs.