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New study shows worldwide decrease in unintended pregnancies

Women in the poorest countries were nearly three times as likely to face unintended pregnancies as those in the wealthiest countries, revealing major and persistent inequities in access to sexual and reproductive health care.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
July 23, 2020 5:34:46 am
unintended pregnancies, Abortion rates, Lancet Global Health, Lancet study, Indian express news Sixty one per cent of unintended pregnancies (73.3 million) ended in abortion between 2015 and 2019, corresponding to a global rate of 39 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49. (Representational)

Since 1990, as access to contraceptives has increased, the rate of unintended pregnancy has fallen across the world. In 2015–2019, there were 121 million unintended pregnancies annually, corresponding to a global rate of 64 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49. This is a decline from 79 per 1,000 women in 1990–1994. But the progress is not uniform.

Women in the poorest countries were nearly three times as likely to face unintended pregnancies as those in the wealthiest countries, revealing major and persistent inequities in access to sexual and reproductive health care, researchers said at a media telebriefing webinar on Wednesday.

Sixty one per cent of unintended pregnancies (73.3 million) ended in abortion between 2015 and 2019, corresponding to a global rate of 39 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49. Abortion rates and trends varied across regions. The most significant decline was in Europe and North America, where the abortion rate fell by 63 per cent between the periods 1990–1994 and 2015–2019.

“The substantial declines in unintended pregnancies and in abortion rates in some regions of the world is welcome news, reflecting important gains in access to effective, safe, acceptable and affordable sexual and reproductive health services,” said Bela Ganatra, head of Preventing Unsafe Abortion Unit and Scientist at HRP.

With improved access to sexual and reproductive health services, however, the number of unintended pregnancies worldwide has fallen since 1990-1994. A new study published on Wednesday in Lancet Global Health also reveals that half of these unintended pregnancies end in abortion.

“The findings of this study show a clear need for a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to safe and legal abortion, which is critical to ensuring reproductive autonomy,” said Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of Guttmacher Institute.

Authored by researchers at the Guttmacher Institute and the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), the study looks at the incidence of unintended pregnancy and abortion from 1990 to 2019.

Over the same period, in countries with legal restrictions on the procedure, the abortion rate increased by 12 per cent. However, the report shows that in countries where it is broadly legal, there was a slight decline. In fact, abortion rates were similar (40 and 36 per 1,000 women, respectively) in countries where abortion is broadly legal and in those where it is restricted – underscoring that women seek abortion when experiencing unintended pregnancy, regardless of its legal status.

The report shows that abortion rates are lowest in high-income countries where abortion is broadly legal—11 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, compared with 32 per 1,000 in high-income countries where it is not. Among low- and middle-income countries, irrespective of legal status, the abortion rate ranges from 34 to 48. This highlights the importance of access to contraception.

Unsafe abortions contribute to between 5 per cent and 13 per cent of all deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, amounting to between 22,800 and 59,280 deaths each year. .

“Unintended pregnancy and abortion are reproductive health experiences shared by millions of people every year in every part of the world, irrespective of personal status or circumstances,” said Jonathan Bearak, lead author of the study and senior research scientist at Guttmacher.

Abortion and Unintended Pregnancy Worldwide is an established study of the incidence of abortion and unintended pregnancy globally and by region. In 2020, the study uses an updated, more comprehensive methodology, in which for the first time the worldwide number of pregnancies was estimated, followed by an estimation of how many of those pregnancies were unintended and how many ended in abortion.

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