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Girls & Women

Lack of Access to a Range of Family Planning Options Leads to More Unplanned Pregnancies: Report


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Women around the world deserve the right to reproductive health education. Ensuring all women have access to their contraceptive options will help us achieve gender equality by 2030. You can join us and take action on this issue here

More than half of women surveyed in low- and middle-income countries are dissatisfied with their birth control methods, and rather than finding new methods, they’re having unplanned pregnancies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s latest report.

The women who experienced unintended pregnancies were either not using contraception or relied on traditional methods such as withdrawal or calendar-based methods, according to the report released Friday. 

“Access to high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services and information, including a full range of contraceptive methods, can play a vital role in building a healthier future for women and girls, as well as contributing to attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr. Ian Askew, director of the department of reproductive health and research at the WHO. 

The WHO surveyed 10,000 women aged 15 to 49 across 36 low- and middle-income countries. The family planning study found that women had wished to avoid or delay having children, but they stopped using contraception because they were worried about how it would affect their health. 

More than half of all women who said they had become unintentionally pregnant had not used a contraceptive in the five years before conceiving. Nearly 10% reported the last method they had used was traditional, just over 3% said they used pills and condoms, and under 3% relied on intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants. 

In low- and middle-income countries, 74 million women have unintended pregnancies, leading to some 25 million unsafe abortions and 47,000 maternal deaths annually, according to the WHO. The harmful implications span generations.

Mothers who have unplanned pregnancies tend to give birth when they’re younger, not finish their education, and earn less later in life. Children whose births are unplanned are also more likely to have health complications, be born into poverty, and struggle to reach their full potential. Complicated pregnancies and childbirth are the leading cause of death of adolescent girls, aged 15 to 19, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  

Read More: 5 Ways Family Planning Is Crucial to Gender Equality

Women and girls need more access to reproductive health information and services, the report said. The WHO advises countries to increase the number of available contraceptive options, identify when women are having issues with the method they are using, and ensure women are still using contraception even while trying different methods. 

The UNFPA Supplies program is one effort helping prevent tens of thousands of maternal deaths by providing maternal health support, medicines, and family planning services.

Identifying where women who have concerns about their birth control live, and offering them support, is the first step toward policy change, the report said. More effective family planning, counseling, and support can help address issues and concerns around birth control, and ensure women and their children live full, healthy lives.