Adding It Up: The costs and benefits of investing in family planning and maternal and newborn health

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In the developing world, deaths and poor health among women and newborns have remained too high for too long, despite decades of international agreements declaring the need for urgent action to improve wellbeing among these groups. More effective action is needed now, especially given the strong evidence of the benefits of investing in the health of women and their newborns: fewer unintended pregnancies; fewer maternal and newborn deaths; healthier mothers and children; greater family savings and productivity; and better prospects for educating children, strengthening economies and reducing the pressure on natural resources in developing countries.

Because of these far-reaching benefits, increased investment in family planning and maternal and newborn health services could accelerate progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set in 2000 with targets for 2015. These services for women and infants are highly cost-effective, and they are complementary because the health of mothers and of their babies is intertwined. A continuum of care is needed to help individuals and couples plan their pregnancies and to provide timely antenatal, delivery and postpartum services, including urgent care for complications that arise among women and newborns.

Caring for the health of women and their babies is essential, yet family planning and maternal and newborn services fall well short of needs in developing countries. Using new estimates for 2008, this report shows that

  • an estimated 215 million women who want to avoid a pregnancy are not using an effective method of contraception, despite increases in use in recent years;
  • only about one-half of the 123 million women who give birth each year receive antenatal, delivery and newborn care (including routine care and care for complications), and many who get care do not receive all the components of care they need; and
  • about 20 million women have unsafe abortions each year, and three million of the estimated 8.5 million who need care for subsequent health complications do not receive it.