Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended – a global crisis, says new UNFPA report
War and humanitarian emergencies create conditions for unintended pregnancies to increase further
Nearly half of all pregnancies, totalling 121 million each year throughout the world, are unintended. For the women and girls affected, the most life-altering reproductive choice—whether or not to become pregnant—is no choice at all, explains the State of World Population 2022 report, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
The ground-breaking report – “Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy” – warns that this human rights crisis has profound consequences for societies, women and girls and global health. Over 60 per cent of unintended pregnancies globally end in abortion. An estimated 45 per cent of all abortions globally are unsafe, causing 5 – 13 per cent of all maternal deaths. For women and girls in countries where abortion is illegal and unsafe, unintended pregnancy can lead to severe health consequences and even death.
The war in Ukraine, and other conflicts and crises around the world, are expected to drive an increase in unintended pregnancies, as access to contraception is disrupted and sexual violence increases.
Presenting the report, Jacqueline Mahon, Principal Advisor for International Development Finance at UNFPA said: “The report is calling for a collective change in mindset to see the unseen, to acknowledge the unrealised value of women and girls, to ensure universal health coverage, end gender-based violence, and uphold sexual and reproductive rights, especially in crisis and humanitarian contexts.”
Commenting on the report, Mr Colm Brophy TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said: “This report reminds us of the simple truth that when women succeed, societies succeed. Gender equality is a win-win for all. That is why Ireland partners with UNFPA to improve the lives of women and girls globally.
“Just now, our country is seeing thousands of women and children arrive from Ukraine fleeing danger. The UNFPA has been working tirelessly in the region to help such displaced women and children. Providing kits for clean delivery of babies. Offering life-saving maternal health services. Responding to gender-based violence. In recognition, I have allocated UNFPA an extra €1.5m in Irish Aid emergency humanitarian funding.
“And Ireland will continue to support UNFPA in ongoing essential work in many other conflicts and hardships ravaging too many parts of the world, for too long.”
Speaking at the launch Caitríona Henchion, IFPA Medical Director said: “Today’s report shows that unintended pregnancy is a global crisis, with life-altering consequences for women and girls. In Ireland, we see – every day – the positive impacts of a holistic approach to unintended pregnancy. The ability to access accurate information about sexual and reproductive health, the availability of State-funded abortion care and universal free contraception, beginning this year with 17 to 25 year-olds, are all essential to gender equality, reproductive choice and bodily autonomy.”
Holly Cairns, TD, co-Chair of the All Party Oireachtas Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights chaired the launch event. Deputy Cairns commented: “Unintended pregnancy is an invisible global crisis. It is a topic that is still surrounded by stigma. The reality is that many women experience unintended pregnancy. We must recognise that a lack of reproductive choice is a major factor in these cases. We need to do more to ensure access to contraception, sexuality education, and abortion care, so that the decision to become pregnant is a deliberate choice.”
Key findings: Gender inequality and stalled development drive high rates of unintended pregnancies
Globally, an estimated 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception, and where data is available, nearly a quarter of all women are not able to say no to sex. A range of other key factors also contribute to unintended pregnancies, including:
- Lack of sexual and reproductive health care and information
- Contraceptive options that don’t suit women’s bodies or circumstances
- Harmful norms and stigma surrounding women controlling their own fertility and bodies
- Sexual violence and reproductive coercion
- Judgmental attitudes or shaming in health services
- Poverty and stalled economic development
- Gender inequality
When crisis hits, unintended pregnancies climb
Crisis and conflict rob women of their agency at all levels, drastically increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy. Women often lose access to contraceptives and sexual violence increases, with some studies showing that over 20 per cent of refugee women and girls will face sexual violence. In Afghanistan, war and disruptions to health systems are expected to lead to an estimated 4.8 million unintended pregnancies by 2025, which will jeopardise the country’s overall stability, peace, and recovery.
The responsibility to act
The report calls on decision-makers and health systems to prioritise the prevention of unintended pregnancies by improving the accessibility, acceptability, quality and variety of contraception and greatly expanding quality sexual and reproductive health care and information.
It urges policy makers, community leaders and all individuals to empower women and girls to make affirmative decisions about sex, contraception and motherhood, and to foster societies that recognize the full worth of women and girls. If they do, women and girls will be able to contribute fully to society, and will have the tools, information and power to make this fundamental choice— to have children, or not—for themselves.
For more information, visuals, interview requests or to register for the event, please contact Sophie Mac Neice, Communications Officer, IFPA, at Sophie.firstname.lastname@example.org or 086 7952167
Please note that as a Covid 19 measure, we will have a Novaerus air filtration unit in operation for the duration of the launch.
Notes to editors
You can access the UNFPA State of World Population report, Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy here: http://www.unfpa.org/swp2022
For more information about UNFPA, please visit: http://www.unfpa.org
About the report
The State of World Population report is UNFPA’s annual flagship publication. Published yearly since 1978, it shines a light on emerging issues in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, bringing them into the mainstream and exploring the challenges and opportunities they present for international development.
This report’s analysis builds upon new data from UNFPA’s partner, the Guttmacher Institute.
As the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, working in over 150 countries around the world, UNFPA helps people obtain contraception and life-saving reproductive health services and information and empowers women and girls to make informed decisions about their bodies and lives.
Its mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
The IFPA is a leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare in Ireland, and an advocate for sexual and reproductive rights. The IFPA offers a comprehensive range of services, including contraception, sexuality education and abortion care, which promote sexual health and support reproductive choice on a not-for-profit basis, and promotes the right of all people to comprehensive, dedicated and affordable sexual and reproductive health information and services.
About Jacqueline Mahon
Jacqueline Mahon is the Principal Advisor for International Development Finance at UNFPA. Previously, she served as UNFPA Country Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania Jacqueline is originally from Dublin and is based in Washington. She brings with her more than 25 years of development experience, including as UNFPA Director (a.i.) of the Policy and Strategy Division, at the Aga Khan Foundation, Overseas Development Institute (UK), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and World Bank Group.