Key Points

  • In developing countries, one in four sexually active women who want to avoid becoming pregnant have an unmet need for modern contraception. These women account for 82% of unintended pregnancies in the developing world.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa, South Central Asia and Southeast Asia are home to 69% of women in the developing world who have an unmet need for a modern method.
  • Each year in these three regions, 49 million women have unintended pregnancies, leading to 21 million unplanned births, 21 million induced abortions (15 million of which are unsafe), 116,000 maternal deaths and the loss of 15 million healthy years of women’s lives.
  • Seven in 10 women with unmet need in the three regions cite reasons for nonuse that could be rectified with appropriate methods: Twenty-three percent are concerned about health risks or method side effects; 21% have sex infrequently; 17% are postpartum or breast-feeding; and 10% face opposition from their partners or others.
  • In these three regions, the typical woman with reasons for unmet need that could be addressed with appropriate methods is married, is 25 or older, has at least one child and lives in a rural area.
  • In the short term, women and couples need more information about pregnancy risk and contraceptive methods, as well as better access to high-quality contraceptive services and supplies.
  • In the medium term, adaptations of current methods can make these contraceptives more acceptable and easier to use. n Investment in longer-term work is needed to discover and develop new modes of contraceptive action that do not cause systemic side effects, can be used on demand, and do not require partner participation or knowledge.
  • Overcoming method-related reasons for nonuse of modern contraceptives could reduce unintended pregnancy and its consequences by as much as 59% in these regions.