The MHTF Quarterly highlights critical issues in the maternal health field.
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Featured Resource
Key Reports
Key Publications
Technical Resources
Policy Brief
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MHTF Quarterly, Issue 7: Family Planning and Maternal Health


The MHTF Quarterly shares resources, research and news in key maternal health areas. This quarter, we’re focusing on the integration of family planning into maternal health services.

From 1990 to 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) decreased by 44 percent. A drop in the total fertility rate worldwide, due primarily to an increase in contraceptive use, resulted in not only 1.2 million fewer maternal deaths from 1990 to 2005, but also a decrease in MMR. However, amplified progress is needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target of reducing the global MMR to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030, and major challenges remain for sexual and reproductive health care access.
Based on a modeling exercise conducted by Ahmed et al., contraceptive use averted approximately 44 percent of maternal deaths. However, an additional 104,000 deaths could be averted annually by providing modern family planning methods to the 225 million women who have an unmet need.
Women with high-risk and high-parity births are at an increased risk of maternal death. Increased use of contraception among these women has not only reduced the number of maternal deaths, but also the proportion of maternal deaths, as reflected in a decrease in MMR. In fact, when a country is transitioning from low to high coverage of family planning, as much as a 450 point change in MMR can be realized.
However, two-thirds of women who desire postponing pregnancy for at least 24 months following childbirth do not use modern contraceptive methods, based on data from 27 low- and middle-income countries.These women are at risk of becoming pregnant too quickly after a previous pregnancy, leading to increased risks of complications and death.
The SDGs tackle the issue of unmet family planning need by aiming to achieve “universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes” by 2030. By placing reproductive health services on national and regional political agendas and fostering a framework that integrates family planning services into the arena of maternal health, a woman will have an increased ability to decide when and if her first or next pregnancy should occur.
Innovative and integrated programs are needed to decrease unmet need for family planning, increase access to contraceptive methods and improve quality of services all while providing respectful and woman-centered care.
To read more, visit the family planning topics page on the MHTF website.

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Featured Resource

Improving women's health through universal health coverage
PLOS | 2014

In addition to peer-reviewed publications, the MHTF curates the most recent news and publishes weekly blog posts on global health topics like family planning.

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Key Reports

Universal access to reproductive health: Progress and challenges
UNFPA | 2016

Global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents' health 2016-2030
WHO | 2015

State of the world population 2015: A transformative agenda for women and girls in a crisis-prone world
UNFPA | 2015

Adding it up 2014: The costs and benefits of investing in sexual and reproductive health
UNFPA, Guttmacher Institute | 2014

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Key Publications

Family planning, antenatal and delivery care: Cross-sectional survey evidence on levels of coverage and inequalities by public and private sector in 57 low- and middle-income countries
Tropical Medicine & International Health | March 2016

Scaling up family planning to reduce maternal and child mortality: The potential costs and benefits of modern contraceptive use in South Africa
PLOS ONE | June 2015

National, regional, and global rates and trends in contraceptive prevalence and unmet need for family planning between 1990 and 2015: a systematic and comprehensive analysis
Lancet | 2013

Maternal deaths averted by contraceptive use: an analysis of 172 countries
The Lancet | 2012

Check out recent publications on family planning.

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Technical Resources

Integrating maternal, infant, and young child nutrition and family planning services in Bondo Sub-County, Kenya
USAID, MCHIP and MCSP | 2015

Technical reference materials family planning
USAID | August 2015

Enabling the healthy spacing and limiting of pregnancies: Programmatic approaches to expand postpartum intrauterine device access
USAID and PSI | 2015

Ensuring human rights in the provision of contraceptive information and services: Guidance and recommendations
WHO | 2014

Programming strategies for postpartum family planning
WHO | 2013

Family planning: Global handbook for providers
WHO, USAID and Johns Hopkins | 2011

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Policy Brief

Integrating family planning and maternal and child health care: Saving lives, money, and time
Population Reference Bureau | 2011

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Contact us!

The MHTF is always looking for new resources, research, perspectives and news on this important issue. We invite your feedback as well as any resources you’d like to share. Please contact us at with comments, suggestions, questions and contributions to the blog.

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Follow us!

Stay up-to-date on the latest maternal health news, research and opportunities by following the Maternal Health Task Force on Twitter and Facebook!

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Copyright © 2016 Maternal Health Task Force at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, All rights reserved.

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