Note: This news release contains a clarification related to net cost savings and corrected equivalent U.S. dollar amounts. It supersedes the version originally posted on April 15, 2009.

Low levels of contraceptive use in the Philippines result in high rates of unintended pregnancy and a broad range of negative consequences for women, their families and the national health care system. "Meeting Women’s Contraceptive Needs in the Philippines," a new report from the Guttmacher Institute and the University of the Philippines Population Institute, documents the considerable social and financial benefits that would accrue from investing in contraceptive services to enable women to avoid unintended pregnancies.

Three in 10 Filipino women at risk for unintended pregnancy—that is, women who are sexually active and able to have children, but who do not want a child in the next two years or at all—use no contraception; another two in 10 use traditional methods. More than half of the Philippines' 3.4 million annual pregnancies are unintended, and 92% of these occur to women who either use no method or use a traditional one. Expanding access to contraception could result in 800,000 fewer unplanned births, 500,000 fewer induced abortions and 200,000 fewer miscarriages. What’s more, it could prevent as many as 2,100 maternal deaths each year—nearly half of all deaths from pregnancy-related causes. Better access to contraceptive services could also save 120,000 productive years of women’s lives, years that are currently lost to ill-health resulting from unintended pregnancies.

"Investing in contraceptive services not only enables women and their families to plan their births and avoid the serious health complications that often accompany unintended pregnancy, it also saves money," said Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. "Although the initial expense of providing contraception to all women in need may seem great, the costs associated with unintended pregnancies, including treating the consequences of unsafe abortion, are much higher."

The study finds that providing modern contraceptive services to all women at risk of unintended pregnancy in the Philippines would raise annual family planning costs from 1.9 billion Philippine pesos to 4 billion pesos. However, the study found that the medical costs associated with unintended pregnancy, including treating the consequences of unsafe abortion, would fall dramatically—from 3.5 billion to 600 million pesos—resulting in a reduction of 2.9 billion pesos (nearly US$60 million) in these costs and a net savings of 0.8 billion pesos (nearly US$ 16.5 million). These savings, the report suggests, could be used to improve and expand a range of health and social services, helping the Philippines to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Fulfilling the demand for contraceptives would particularly benefit poor women, who represent the largest segment of women with unmet contraceptive needs. The 35% of Filipino women aged 15–49 who are poor account for 53% of the unmet need for contraception.

"Increasing contraceptive use will require increased investment in contraceptive supplies and services, from both international donors and the Philippines government," said co-author Josefina V. Cabigon, professor at University of the Philippines Population Institute. "This investment is especially critical to improving the health of poor women, who face the greatest barriers in achieving the family size they desire. Ensuring contraceptive access is not only wise fiscal policy, it would have a profound effect in improving public health."