It sounds obvious—pregnancies could be avoided by using contraception. But 15 million unwanted pregnancies could be avoided annually in 35 low- and middle-income countries if women did in fact use modern contraception. That’s according to a study in the journal Human Reproduction. [Saverio Bellizzi et al, Underuse of modern methods of contraception: underlying causes and consequent undesired pregnancies in 35 low- and middle-income countries]
Unwanted pregnancy has a wide range of serious consequences. Women may have to stop their education or employment. They might pursue unsafe abortions. And they can face disability, disease and death as a result of the pregnancy.
To determine barriers to the use of contraception, researchers compared surveys and interviews of nearly 13,000 women who became pregnant unintentionally. They compared the data to that from more than a hundred thousand women who were sexually active and did not want to be pregnant.
For women who were sexually active, did not want to be pregnant, but did not use contraception, 37 percent feared health side effects from contraception. Twenty-two percent said they or their partner objected. These issues outweighed cost or availability. Women also underestimated the risks of getting pregnant from unprotected sex.
The World Health Organization’s Howard Sobel is one of the authors of the study. In a press release he says the research shows that health workers need to play a bigger role in educating and reassuring women, along with helping individuals determine the best contraceptive for them. He advises that effective, affordable contraception should be coupled with education about the myths of contraception—and information about the real risks of unintended pregnancies.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]