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Stud Fam Plann. 1987 Mar-Apr;18(2):109-14.

The importance of family planning in reducing maternal mortality.



Maternal mortality in many developing countries remains at distressingly high levels despite improvements in hospital obstetrics. WHO estimates that 1/2 million maternal deaths occur each year, 99% of which are in developing countries. While many people expect that widespread acceptance of family planning will bring down levels of maternal mortality, some analyses have claimed disappointing reductions, though others were more encouraging. The primary reason for this discrepancy lies in the choice of measure of maternal mortality, compounded somewhat by a confusion in terminology. Maternal mortality can be measured by: 1) the number of maternal deaths; 2) the maternal mortality ratio; 3) the maternal mortality rate; or 4) the lifetime risk of death in childbirth. Family planning use influences the maternal mortality ratio only to the extent that it reduces the proportion of pregnancies to high-risk women. The maternal mortality rate can be substantially influenced by the prevalence of contraception, but it is primarily the reduction in the number of births, per se, that exerts the influence. The choice of measure should be determined by the issue being addressed, and which of the 2 determinants of maternal mortality (obstetric risk or prevalence of pregnancy) is the focus. Current levels of maternal mortality in the developed countries have been achieved only with both good obstetric care and with low fertility. In developing countries today, modern obstetric care is often available only in a few teaching hospitals, but family planning programs are feasible even in remote areas. While implementing family planning programs is not easy, it is more feasible than the implementation of significant improvements in the quality and availability of obstetric care. The contribution of family planning to lower maternal mortality and morbidity should not be underestimated.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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