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Millions Still Lack Access to Modern Contraception, Study Says

One-fifth of married women in eastern, central and western Africa are without reliable birth control, research shows

MONDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- The number of women worldwide using modern contraceptive methods such as birth control pills is increasing, but an estimated 233 million women with partners may not have access to these methods in 2015, a new study suggests.

That means these women would have to rely on traditional contraceptive methods, such as not having sex or withdrawal of the penis before ejaculation.

Researchers analyzed data from 1990 to 2010 about women of reproductive age (15 to 49) in 194 countries and found that the use of contraception by married women increased from 55 percent to 63 percent during that time, while the unmet need for contraception fell from 15 percent to 12 percent. (Women with unmet need are those who want to delay or stop childbearing but aren't using any method of birth control to prevent pregnancy.)

However, because of population growth and other factors, total worldwide demand for contraception is projected to grow from 900 million in 2010 to 962 million in 2015. Increased spending on family planning will be needed to provide modern contraception methods to 233 million who would otherwise not have access to them, said the researchers at the United Nations Population Division and the National University of Singapore.

The largest increases in modern contraceptive use (more than 15 percent) between 1990 and 2010 were in southern Asia and eastern, northern and southern Africa. However, in central and western Africa, use of contraception by married women remained low, according to the study, published online March 11 in The Lancet.

During that same period, the reduction in unmet need for contraception was greatest in central America and northern Africa, where it fell by 9 percent. Most countries had stable or reduced rates of unmet need, but more than 20 percent of married women in eastern, central and western Africa still had an unmet need in 2010.

Worldwide, an estimated 146 million married women had an unmet need for modern contraception in 2010, a figure that increases to 221 million if women using traditional birth control methods are included, the study said.

"It is of concern that contraceptive use remains very low in many African countries," John Cleland, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in England and author of an accompanying editorial, said in a journal news release. Cleland said the countries of Chad, Mali and Mauritania will likely experience a tripling of population size by mid-century, which will present an impossible burden on their fragile ecosystems.

"Expansion of community-based services is a priority but of equal importance is the need to address social opposition to contraception by mass media and efforts to engage the support of religious and local leaders," he added.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about family planning.


SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, March 11, 2013

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