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Reproductive health and family planning

The majority of maternal and newborn child deaths can be prevented if women have access to quality reproductive health services.
The majority of maternal and newborn child deaths can be prevented if women have access to quality reproductive health services.

Every year, 536,000 women and girls die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth, or the six weeks following delivery. 68,000 of these maternal deaths result from unsafe abortions due to unwanted pregnancies. A newborn child whose mother dies has a 3-10 times greater risk of death than one whose mother survives.

Yet most of these maternal and newborn child deaths could be prevented.

In response to high maternal mortality rates, unmet needs for family planning, and high rates of pregnancy among adolescents, Plan has developed the following programs to help reduce these risks:

Maternal and newborn child health

The majority of maternal deaths result from obstetric complications – including hemorrhage, infection, eclampsia or prolonged/obstructed labor – and complications of unsafe abortions. Most of these deaths, however, could be prevented if women had access to quality reproductive health services, skilled health care workers assisting at birth, and access to emergency obstetric care. Plan’s maternal and child health programs seek to educate and enable pregnant women to access these services that could be potentially life-saving.

For example, in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Plan organized camps to train birth attendants, which resulted in a marked decrease in infant and maternal mortality rates.

Plan also partners with governments and local agencies to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, and reduce the incidence of maternal and newborn mortality due to preventable diseases, such as malaria and tetanus. In Cameroon, for example, Plan distributed long-lasting insecticide bed nets to under-5 caretakers and pregnant women. These bed nets have helped to drastically reduce the rate of malaria infection which can cause adverse effects on both mother and fetus, including maternal anemia, fetal loss, and premature delivery.

Adolescent reproductive health

Adolescents and youth in most countries are both the majority of the nation’s population and high-risk groups in terms of sexual and reproductive health – yet they are often marginalized from these health services.

Adolescent girls are more likely to die or experience complications in pregnancy and childbirth than adult women; girls who give birth before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties. Early pregnancies can also damage a young mother’s prospects for education and opportunities for social and economic advancement.

Plan strives to provide sexual and reproductive health services to these neglected and high-risk populations in innovative ways. In Uganda, for example, Plan supports six outreach posts that deliver quality sexual and reproductive health services to youth in safe, confidential settings. Youths are also educated about sexual health issues, including HIV and AIDS, through creative means such as drama performances, poetry readings, sports and games.

Family planning

Up to 40% of all maternal deaths could be avoided if women had access to contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which result in 68,000 deaths each year due to unsafe abortions. Plan actively promotes the use of modern contraceptives, birth spacing and safe sex practices, not only among married couples but also in youth and single adults.

In Guinea, Plan has implemented a three and a half year project to improve knowledge and use of contraceptives among youth, women and men. By increasing awareness and acceptance of family planning and birth spacing, as well as access to family planning clinics, Plan has seen a drastic increase in the contraceptive prevalence rate – from 6% to 76%.