Unplanned pregnancies in Kenya are on the rise as access to family planning services and reproductive health care is declining, according to a study from Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA).
The 2019 study revealed that unplanned pregnancies have increased to 44% within the last two years, and the use of contraceptives among married women has declined from 62% to 56%.
While Kenyan women want to use birth control and contraceptives, they don’t always have access to quality reproductive health care and family planning services.
“There seems to be a disconnect between women using family planning methods and the highest rate of unintended pregnancies,” Principal Investigator at PMA Professor Peter Gichangi told Capital News.
Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 make up 60% of those experiencing unintended pregnancies, but only 11% of sexually active teenagers are using birth control and contraceptives.
The availability of birth control seems to be a large part of the problem, according to Gichangi. When it comes to IUDs, there just isn’t a large enough supply in Kenya.
“Of the facilities we visited, about 15% reported they don’t have implants in stock. Implants are growing as the method of choice, so this would affect many women,” Gichangi said.
Although some forms of birth control are available at the national reserves, they are not always in stock in local communities due to strict regulations from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA).
If a woman has any pending medical bills, she will not be allowed to acquire birth control until those bills are paid in full.
The study also showed that 49% of the women surveyed discontinued their form of birth control after two years, out of which only 19% switched to a different method. Also, women in the workforce were more likely to be on birth control than unemployed women.
While 17% of the women in the study reported that their partners were unaware they were using birth control, 51% revealed that seeking out access to family planning services was a joint decision.
Birth control can drastically reduce unplanned pregnancies. In Colorado, access to contraceptives caused the teenage pregnancy rate to decrease by nearly 40% between 2009 and 2013.
Unplanned pregnancy can also negatively impact the health of both the mother and child. Women who experience unintended pregnancies are 20% more likely to experience maternal depression.