121 Million Pregnancies Each Year unintended

6.9 Million Women Suffer from Malnutrition

Are pregnancies in the world intended? No, most of the pregnancies are unintended, according to a latest report from the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA.

The agency in its report Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy, says that nearly half of all pregnancies, totalling 121 million each year worldwide, are unintended. This comes to 3,31,000 per day and the number is expected to rise with population growth if decisive action not taken, the agency warns.

The UNFPA stresses that this human rights crisis has “profound consequences for societies, women and girls and global health”. “This report is a wakeup call”, said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem.  She further stated, “the staggering number of unintended pregnancies represents a global failure to uphold women and girls’ basic human rights.”


In the report, the UNFPA points out that gender inequality and stalled development drive high rates of unintended pregnancies. It notes that about 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception. Moreover, nearly a quarter of all women, feel unable to say no to demands for sex. Apart from these, the report points out that lack of sexual and reproductive healthcare, contraceptive that does not suit women’s circumstances, harmful norms surrounding women controlling their own bodies, sexual violence and reproductive coercion and shaming in health services lead to unwanted pregnancy.


The UNFPA mentions in the report that over 60 per cent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion and an estimated 45 per cent of all abortions are unsafe. This accounts for five to 13 per cent of all maternal deaths recorded, the report said. “For the women affected, the most life-altering reproductive choice – whether or not to become pregnant – is no choice at all,” said the UNFPA chief.

The fundamental to the reproductive rights of a girl or a woman is her ability to decide whether to have children, how many and with whom. The UN report states that when this right is ignored or compromised by social constraints or abuse, lack of health services or low priority in general placed on the female half of humanity, the consequences snowball. Unintended pregnancy impacts individual lives and whole societies, impeding progress in health, education and gender equality, increasing poverty and lack of opportunity and costing billions in resources.


The UNFPA States that the Russia- Ukraine war and other conflicts and crises are expected to drive an increase in unintended pregnancies. This is because of and Increase in sexual violence and disruption of access to contraception. The Agency noted that over 20 per cent of refugee women and girls face sexual violence,


The report calls on decision-makers and those in charge of health systems to help prevent unintended pregnancies by improving accessibility and contraception choices. It also urges policy makers and community leaders to empower women and girls to make affirmative decisions about sex, contraception and motherhood.

By putting the power to make this most fundamental decision squarely in the hands of women and girls, societies can ensure that motherhood is an aspiration and not an inevitability,” said the UNFPA chief.

The report also comes across seven myths about unintended pregnancy that contribute to the shame, stigma and misunderstandings that must be overcome to end this crisis.

Myth 1: Only promiscuous women and reckless teenagers have unintended pregnancies. Any fertile woman, regardless of age, marital status or background, can get pregnant unexpectedly. Blaming the high rate on particular gender stereotypes is widely off the mark

For instance, while modern contraceptives are increasingly available, no method is 100 per cent failsafe. Planned sexual abstinence can also fail, including due to coercion or violence. Other factors that undermine the ability of women and girls to exercise reproductive choice and bodily autonomy include gender inequality, poverty, shame, fear and gender based violence. Almost one quarter of women are unable to refuse sex. Rape causes unintended pregnancy at rates equal to, or greater than, consensual sex, Young or old, married or single, sexually active or not – all women, transgender and non-binary people are vulnerable if they are able to get pregnant.

Myth 2: Women do not use contraceptives because they do not know about or cannot get them. Globally, around 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception. Of these women, 172 million use no method. Another concern is about side effects having infrequent or no sex, and opposition to condoms and other methods. Misinformation about long-term effects on fertility add to fears about contraception

Myth 3: Legal, available access to abortion encourages women to have unprotected sex. Actually, rates of unintended pregnancy tend to be lower in countries with more liberal abortion laws, where access to safe abortion is available on request or in most circumstances. In countries where abortion is restricted or banned, more women get pregnant unexpectedly

when women have access to proper health services and the ability to exercise their rights to reproductive choice and bodily autonomy, rates of unintended pregnancy fall regardless of abortion laws.

Myth 4: Unintended pregnancy is always entirely a person’s fault.

While unintended pregnancy at the individual level is an obvious result of unprotected sex, the wider causes have societal roots. Social and economic conditions such as income, education, gender equality and availability of health services play a large role in determining whether women are more likely to get pregnant unexpectedly. Framing the issue as one of personal responsibility ignores these crucial factors.

When societies empower women to make their own choices, they recognize women’s inherent value. Countries with higher levels of informed choice reduce both unintended pregnancies and their far-reaching negative consequences

Myth 5: Married women do not have to worry about unintended pregnancies Married women and girls are often ignored in these discussions simply because of the assumption that marriage means having a child, in fact, married women are just as susceptible to unintended pregnancy as other women in some cases more so.

Adolescent girls may be forced into marriage by her families to avoid the dishonour and stigma of unwed pregnancy. Girls in child marriages with much older men tend to have the education and power and many are unable to exercise any reproductive choice. In situations of domestic abuse, women are 53 per cent less likely to use contraception and twice as likely to report an unintended pregnancy.

Myth 6: Despite more than 60 per cent of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion, not all are unwanted. Some are “happy accidents” that women keep. A large survey in France found that women were more likely to say a pregnancy was unplanned than they were to say it was unwanted. Some are unsure whether to have children or add to their families. Others are sure they do but are less certain about their current and future circumstances. Some change their minds before – and even during – a pregnancy. But others may be resigned to the fact that pregnancy is expected of them, understanding the choice is not entirely theirs if at all.

Myth 7: Unintended pregnancy is not a real crisis. The high rate of unintended pregnancy has devastating global consequences that affect almost every aspect of human development. In a world already facing such major challenges as climate change, conflict, natural disaster and mass migration, unintended pregnancy and its related harms represent a monumental waste from billions of dollars in health-care costs to lower levels of social progress, to persistently high levels of unsafe abortion and resulting maternal deaths, to increased poverty and hunger.

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