A pregnancy that was unplanned, unwanted, or wrongly timed is known as unintended pregnancy. This is different from intended pregnancies in which case the conception of a baby is planned and expected. Sometimes even if the pregnancy was not planned, the baby will be carried full term regardless. However, not all unplanned babies get carried full-term. Due to various circumstances, it sometimes becomes necessary to consider an abortion. There are various ways to have a successful abortion, such as using an MTP abortion kit (that comes in the form of a combi pack containing Mifepristone and Misoprostol) recommended by doctors. Not only abortions, but unintended pregnancies may also lead to miscarriages or live-births. There have been multiple attempts to deal with the issue of unintended or unwanted pregnancy and to try and limit the consequences of these circumstances. In many cases, unintended pregnancies lead to poor health outcomes not only for the mother but also for the child. 

In the USA, there have been multiple case studies and researches dealing with the instances of unintended pregnancies, and how they manifest in different ways within the population. Noticeably, unintended pregnancies occur most heavily in low-income or poor areas/households. The lack of awareness regarding birth control, the use of condoms, and even the socio-economic factors related to having multiple children all account for the high rate of unplanned pregnancies. For instance, almost 45% (a bit less than half) of the pregnancies in the United States in 2011 were unintended. This is not an acceptable statistic, as the mark of a developed country is one in which child births are planned and there is awareness regarding birth control methods.

Statistics Show That

By age 45 more than half of U.S. women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy. It was found that more than 92% of pregnancies result in abortion. Unintended pregnancies as a whole result in almost 800,000 abortions per year. Easier methods to induce abortions in women have resulted in safer procedures that do not cause unwanted harm. According to experts at Medsbasket, having information available regarding the process and side effects of abortion makes it much more easily accessible and viable.

44% of the unintended pregnancies in 2001 resulted in childbirth, 42% in induced abortion and the rest were all miscarriages. Also according to one study, over one-third of the people living in the US (under the age of 31) are the result of unintended pregnancies. Mississippi was the state with the highest number of unintended pregnancies in 2006, with the number being 69 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women. This was followed by California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Nevada (66 to 67 per 1,000). The lowest rate was recorded in New Hampshire, 36 per 1,000 women. This was followed by Maine, North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.

How to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies?

There are multiple ways to reduce the overall rates of unintended pregnancies in the US. Some of the common and essential ways are: 

    Increasing the use of contraception would greatly reduce the risk of pregnancy. Funding more family planning services would help women reduce the risk of pregnancies they do not want and also aid them in planning for the ones they do. These services also helped women avoid nearly two million pregnancies in 2014 which were unintended. If not for family planning, this would have resulted in 900,000 more births and an estimated amount of 700,000 abortions.
    The use of long-acting and reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods has been recommended by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For instance, the use of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants would further prevent the risk of unintended pregnancies. The use of LARCs also reduces the cost of unintended pregnancies in the US.
    It is important to educate men about the importance of using a condom both in regards to birth control and safe sex practices. Pregnancy planning involves birth control methods for both men and women, and condoms are an essential way of ensuring limited pregnancies.

Publicly funded clinics prevented about 1.3 million unintended pregnancies, as estimated by The Guttmacher Institute.

Who are the most vulnerable?

There are patterns of higher rates of unintended pregnancy noted in certain circumstances. The chances of having an unintended pregnancy are higher among the following:

  • In 2011, the unintended pregnancy rate for non-Hispanic black women was 79 per 1,000 pregnancies. Non-Hispanic Black women have more than two times higher chances of having an unwanted pregnancy as compared to non-Hispanic white women.
  • Women who have an annual income of less than 200% of the poverty level also have a higher chance of unintended pregnancies. Compared to women with high-income rates, women with incomes below 100% of poverty had an unplanned birth rate that was about seven times more.
  • Education is necessary to spread awareness. Women without a high school education are much more likely to face an unintended pregnancy than those who have educational qualifications. Women who were without a high school degree had the highest unintended pregnancy rate with about 73 per 1,000 pregnancies.
  • Unmarried and cohabiting women also have more than four times higher chances of unintended pregnancy than married women.
  • The chances of an unwanted pregnancy generally decrease with increasing age. In 2011, the highest rate of unintended pregnancy was found in women between the ages of 20-28. However changing the terms of the estimates, if surveys were to include sexually active women, women in the age group of 15-19 have the highest unintended pregnancy rate among all others.

Factors affecting Unintended Pregnancies

  1. AGE: Younger women in the US are much less likely to use contraception than any other age group. 18% of young women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy do not use contraception. Young age is, therefore, an essential factor both in and out of the US. About one-third of teen pregnancies also end in abortion.
  2. TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP: Relationship status is also an important factor to keep in mind when discussing the number of unintended pregnancies. 
  3. POVERTY: Lack of income, as shown above in the statistics, definitely increases the rate of unintended pregnancies.
  4. MINORITY DEMOGRAPHIC: Belonging from a racial minority or ethnicity comes with certain social, political, and economic disadvantages which results in a higher rate of unintended pregnancies.
  5. EDUCATION: Again, awareness and education are essential towards avoiding unintended pregnancies.
  6. SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Nonconsensual intercourse, rape or forced pregnancies may all result in unintended pregnancies. In the context of domestic violence, such crimes are even more prevalent. The purposeful sabotage of birth control methods is also considered abusive. In 1996, the rape-related pregnancy rate was 5% in victims aged 12-45 years. Every year, about 32,000 pregnancies in the United States are a result of sexual assault.

In conclusion, multiple problems can arise from unintended pregnancies. Some of these are: decline in maternal mental health, relationship stress, substance abuse, increased rates of preterm birth, and decreased amount of bonding with the infant. It is also related to an increase in rates of child neglect and abuse. It is better to plan and make use of proper birth control methods to avoid such consequences.

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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