Adding It Up: Investing in Contraception and Maternal and Newborn Health, 2017

This fact sheet presents estimates for 2017 of the contraceptive, maternal and newborn health care needs of women in developing regions, critical gaps in service coverage, and the costs and benefits of fully meeting these needs.

  • As of 2017, 1.6 billion women of reproductive age (15–49) live in developing regions. About half of them (885 million women) want to avoid a pregnancy; of this subset of women, about three-quarters (671 million) are using modern contraceptives (Figure 1).
  • Yet 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method. This includes 155 million who use no method of contraception and 59 million who rely on traditional methods. These women are considered to have an unmet need for modern contraception. Their number has decreased from 225 million in 2014, as modern method use has increased.
  • The proportion of women who have an unmet need for modern contraception is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (21%), while the largest absolute number (70 million women) live in Southern Asia. Together, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia account for 39% of all women in developing regions who want to avoid pregnancy and 57% of women with an unmet need for modern contraception.
  • Of the estimated 206 million pregnancies in 2017 in developing regions, 43% are unintended (that is, they occur too soon or are not wanted at all).
  • Women with an unmet need for modern contraception account for 84% of all unintended pregnancies in developing regions (Figure 2). Women using no method of contraception account for 74% of unintended pregnancies, while women using a traditional method account for 10%.
  • Of the 127 million women who give birth each year in developing regions, many do not receive essential maternal and newborn health care. Overall, just 61% receive a minimum of four antenatal care visits, and 73% give birth in a health facility (Figure 3).
  • There are wide disparities in maternal and newborn health care across regions. For instance, only 56% of women giving birth in Africa deliver in a health facility, compared with 91% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Disparities among countries in contraceptive and maternal and newborn health care follow economic lines. The proportion of women aged 15–49 whose need for family planning is satisfied with modern contraception is lowest (49%) in low-income countries, compared with 69% in lower-middle–income countries and 86% in upper-middle–income countries. Likewise, the proportion of women delivering in a health facility is lowest (55%) in low-income countries and highest (94%) in upper-middle–income countries.
  • Among women who experience medical complications during pregnancy or delivery, only one in three (35%) receive the care they or their newborns need.
  • In 2017, an estimated 308,000 women in developing countries will die from pregnancy-related causes, and 2.7 million babies will die in the first month of life. Most of these deaths could be prevented with full access to certain vital services: contraceptive care to help women avoid unintended pregnancies, and maternal and newborn health care to help mothers and newborns through pregnancy and delivery.