UNFPAState of World Population 2004
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2004: Reproductive Health and Family Planning
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Reproductive Health and Family Planning

Family Planning and Sexual Health
Contraceptive Access and Use
Unmet Need
Choice of Methods
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Quality of Care
Stronger Voices for Reproductive Health
Securing the Supplies
Men and Reproductive Health

Contraceptive Access and Use

Since 1994, family planning use has increased globally from 55 per cent of married couples to around 61 per cent; it has grown by at least 1 percentage point per year in 68 per cent of countries with available data and by at least 2 points per year in 15 per cent of these countries. Use varies regionally, ranging from about 25 per cent in Africa to nearly 65 per cent in Asia (where high use in China raises the average), and 70 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the developed regions.

However, many countries, particularly the poorest, still have restricted contraceptive access and choice. When China (with a large population and high prevalence) is left out of the calculations, only 46 per cent of married women in Asia are using contraception. In the least-developed countries, the average is much lower.

Government support for methods of contraception —through government-run facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, health posts and health centres, and through government fieldworkers—has increased steadily since the 1970s. By 2001, the governments of 92 per cent of all countries supported family planning programmes.

Contraceptive prevalence has increased in each of 20 countries with two surveys since the mid-1990s, from a starting average of 28 per cent to 35 per cent. The proportion of desires being met by modern methods increased in 19 of these countries,(4) where there was an average 94 per cent increase among the poorest fifth of the population. In ten countries, the annual increase in met need for the poorest fifth was higher than the national average.


At a cost of about $7.1 billion a year, modern contraceptive use currently prevents annually:

  • 187 million unintended pregnancies;
  • 60 million unplanned births;
  • 105 million induced abortions;
  • 2.7 million infant deaths;
  • 215,000 pregnancy related-deaths (including 79,000 from unsafe abortions);
  • 685,000 children losing their mothers due to pregnancy-related deaths.

There are some 201 million women with unmet need for effective contraception. Meeting their needs, for an estimated annual cost of $3.9 billion, would avert some 52 million pregnancies each year (half of which would be delayed to a later time, in accordance with stated desires).

Preventing or delaying these unintended pregnancies would also prevent:

  • 23 million unplanned births (a 72 per cent reduction);
  • 22 million induced abortions (a 64 per cent reduction);
  • 1.4 million infant deaths;
  • 142,000 pregnancy related-deaths (including 53,000 from unsafe abortions);
  • 505,000 children losing their mothers due to pregnancy related-deaths.
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