Save the Children Says Pregnancy Kills or Injures One Million Girls a Year

Save the Children Says Pregnancy Kills or Injures One Million Girls a Year

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Tanya Weinberg 202.640.6647 (O), 202.247.6610 (M)

WESTPORT, Conn. (June 26, 2012) — Pregnancy is the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide, with one million dying or suffering serious injury, infection or disease due to pregnancy or childbirth every year, Save the Children said today.

In a new report, Every Woman's Right: How family planning saves children's lives, the international humanitarian and development agency highlights the many ways that lives are saved when women can choose the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. Becoming pregnant too soon (less than 24 months) after a previous birth is dangerous for both mothers and babies. In fact, enabling access to family planning so that women can delay conception for at least three years after giving birth reduces risk of maternal and newborn complications and could save up to 1.8 million lives each year.

However, contraception is not easily available for many. Some 222 million women around the world who don't want to get pregnant currently don't have access to contraception. This year, an estimated 80 million unintended or mistimed pregnancies will occur in developing countries.

"As a mother, I know how valuable that recovery time after giving birth can be. What is more surprising is that delaying the next pregnancy dramatically reduces the risk of complications and death for newborns and mothers, which is critical," said Save the Children's President & CEO, Carolyn Miles.

"We encourage families to let their daughters complete school and delay marriage since those early pregnancies can be a death sentence. Our report highlights the important role of health workers in providing contraception to help families space births and how more years of education can help delay marriage – both of which save children's lives," Miles said.

World leaders are congregating in London next month for a family planning summit hosted by the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This comes on the heels of a global Call to Action to end preventable child deaths within a generation, hosted by USAID with the governments of India and Ethiopia in mid-June. Save the Children is calling for policymakers to endorse this bold goal and sees family planning as a key part of the solution along with other investments in health, nutrition and girls education.

Meeting the entire global need for contraception could prevent 30 percent of maternal deaths and 20 percent of neonatal deaths in the developing world – potentially saving 649,000 lives a year.

"The U.S. has been a leader in helping to cut by nearly half the number of children who die each year from preventable or treatable causes. We need to keep investing in programs that we know save children's lives," Miles said.

The report also highlights:

  • Globally, one in five girls will have had a child by the age of 18.
  • Young mothers are likely to be poor, less educated and living in rural areas.
  • A woman's lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15 year old girl will ultimately die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 3,800 in developed countries but 1 in 150 in developing countries.
  • A national survey in Nigeria in 2005 found almost a third of women believed that certain methods of contraception could lead to female infertility.
  • Every $1 spent on family planning saves at least $4 that would be spent treating pregnancy-related complications.

Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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