A Startling 15 Million Unwanted Pregnancies Each Year are Caused by Underuse of Modern Contraceptives


According to a study published in Human Reproduction, fifteen million out of 16.7 million unintended pregnancies each year could be avoided in 35 low and middle countries, if females had access to modern methods of contraception.

The Study Results

The authors of the study pointed out that women who get pregnant in these countries could face a bleak future of death, disease, lower education, limited employment opportunities and disabilities. Additionally, many unwanted pregnancies wind up ending in abortion. The burdens of unintended pregnancies falls the hardest on the poor and less educated women.

Researchers used data and compared contraceptive use among 12,874 women who fell pregnant unintentionally and with 111,301 sexually active females who were neither pregnant nor wanted to become pregnant.
Researchers gathered information through using demographics and health survey cards, which are standardized globally and involved trained interviewers who conducted the meetings face-to-face with the females in 49 low and middle income countries between the years of 2005 through 2012.

The date culminated from these countries ranged from Armenia to Zimbabwe, and an average of 96 percent of females aged 15 to 49, participated. Using the information, the researchers calculated that undesired pregnancy rates for the countries involved in the study, and the proportion that were attributed to not using any form of modern birth control.

Contraceptive methods were classified as traditional, modern or non-use. These included hormonal oral contraceptives, implants, injectable contraceptives, progestin-only pills, male and female condoms, sterilization, lactational amenorrhea and intrauterine devices. The traditional methods used were withdrawal and calendar methods, with the latter meaning intercourse is timed to occur outside a woman’s fertile period.

The females were also asked to provide a main reason for forgoing the use of contraception:

• Fear of the health side-effects
• Lack of knowledge
• Opposition including the woman and her partners or some other person’s opposition or religious viewpoints
• Method related reasons such as cost or provider being located too far away
• Underestimating the risks of pregnancy
• Fatalism which means belief in the idea that an event is predetermined by faith


Researchers found that using traditional methods of contraception were associated with a two fold increase in the chances of an unwanted pregnancy, when compared with the women who used modern methods of birth control. Those who engaged in non-use of birth control found a 14.5 fold increase. These increases corresponded to an estimated 16.7 million unintended pregnancies each year in the 35 participating countries, of which 15 million pregnancies could have been prevented by the proper use of modern contraception.

Approximately 13.5 million women did not use modern birth control methods and 1.5 million used birth control wrong.The poorer and undereducated females were the least likely to use birth control. About 14,893 women did not use contraception and did not wish to become pregnant, the main reason provided for non-use was fear of side effects and health concerns.

Strategies need to be put into effect to address misconceptions about modern contraceptives. These strategies need to be coupled with efforts to educate women and to provide them with access to affordable and good quality contraceptives.


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