Unwanted pregnancy

Posted: 26 September 2007

More than one-third of all pregnancies - 80 million each year - are unwanted or mistimed. Unwanted pregnancies are more likely to result in maternal death, since women experiencing unwanted pregnancies often resort to unsafe abortion when safe services are not available.

  • Nearly 230 million women worldwide - 1 in 6 women of reproductive age - lack information on and access to a full range of contraceptive methods.

  • Contraceptive services, even where they exist, often do not meet women's needs. A full range of modern methods, including oral contraceptives, IUDs, injectables, implants, male and female condoms, emergency contraception, and voluntary sterilization, is often not available. Providers are often poorly trained and do not counsel women in the proper use of appropriate and available methods

  • In many countries, women have little control over sexual relations and contraceptive use, which limits their ability to prevent unintended pregnancies. Between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of all women report having experienced sexual coercion, abuse, or rape, putting them at high risk for unwanted pregnancy.

  • Another estimate (October 2002) says that at least 125 million women in the developing world (including Russia) still have an unmet need for contraception, because reproductive health care, including family planning services, are not accessible or affordable or because cultural norms or even laws bar them from planning the size of their families. These are the latest estimates from a study of fifty-five national demographic and health surveys carried out during the 1990s.

  • According to the UN's World Contraceptive Use 2003, more women are using modern methods of contraception, including 59% of women who are married or in a long-term relationship in developing countries. But vast differences exist between regions. In Latin America, for example, 71% of women are using a family planning method, but in Africa, the rate is only 27%.

  • The proportion of married women in the developing world with an unmet need is 17 per cent, lower than previously estimated because of a declining trend in many countries that reflects growing contraceptive use. For unmarried women, the proportion is 3 per cent. Women aged 15-24 account for one-third of unmet need.

  • According to a report on the findings in Family Planning Perspectives "the unmet need numbers reflect the upward pressures of population growth acting against the downward push of declining proportions with unmet need. The total estimate of 122.7 million women with unmet need represents a substantial and continuing challenge for agencies and governments concerned with ensuring access to contraceptives".