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High rates of unintended pregnancies result from not using contraceptives─WHO

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A NEW study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 36 countries has shown that high rates of unintended pregnancy occur when women do not engage in family planning or make use of contraceptives.

The report published on Friday on the agency’s website stated that two-thirds of sexually active women who wished to delay or limit childbearing stopped using contraception for fear of side effects, health concerns and underestimation of the likelihood of conceiving. But that led to one in four pregnancies being unintended.

Stating the findings, 4,794 women had an unintended pregnancy after they stopped using contraception.

Of these women, 56 per cent who became pregnant were not using a contraceptive method in the five years prior to conceiving. 9.9 per cent of them indicated that the last method they had used was a traditional method (e.g. a withdrawal or calendar-based method), 31.2 per cent used short-acting modern methods including pills and condoms, and 2.6% long-acting reversible methods of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUD) and implants.

WHO clarified that unintended pregnancies “do not necessarily equate to pregnancies that are unwanted”. But they might lead to a wide range of health risks for the mother and child, such as malnutrition, illness, abuse and neglect, or even death.

“Unintended pregnancies can further lead to cycles of high fertility, as well as lower educational and employment potential and poverty – challenges which can span generations,” the international organisation added.

Giving its recommendations, the report highlighted the need for high-quality family planning services.

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“Services that enable women and girls to change modern methods while remaining protected through effective counselling and respect for their rights and dignity. 

“Services that take a shared decision-making approach to selecting and using effective methods of contraception that most fit the needs and preferences of clients,” it outlined. 

Many issues related to not using the method could be addressed through effective family planning counselling and support, WHO noted.

“High-quality family planning offers a range of potential benefits that encompass not only improved maternal and child health, but also social and economic development, education, and women’s empowerment,” explained Dr Mari Nagai, former Medical Officer for Reproductive and Maternal Health at WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office and an author of the report.

Ian Askew, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, also noted: “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.”

Unintended pregnancies remain an important public health issue. Globally, 74 million women living in low and middle-income countries have unintended pregnancies annually. This leads to 25 million unsafe abortions and 47,000 maternal deaths every year.

According to a report from the International Conference of Family Planning in November 2018, about 13.8 per cent of Nigerian women used contraceptives in 2018, and 1.8 million unintended pregnancies were recorded in the same year.

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