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Nearly half of pregnancies worldwide are unintentional, warns the United Nations

A teenager carries her baby during a psychopedagogy session, in Santo Domingo de los Colorados (Ecuador), January 17, 2020.

Choose whether or not to have a child, when and with whom. This fundamental right, mentioned in many international agreements for fifty years, is still far from being achieved, since every year, nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned, ie nearly 121 million women concerned. It is on this worrying observation that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has chosen to focus its annual report, published on Wednesday March 30 under the title “Seeing the Unseen”. “When almost half of pregnancies are unintended, it gives us an alarming picture of the state of neglect of women’s reproductive freedom.underlined the executive director of the Fund, Natalia Kanem, on Tuesday. This crisis is partly invisible because it is extremely frequent. Almost everyone knows a woman who has had to deal with an unintended pregnancy. »

A reality that is all the more violent in times of crisis, and in particular armed conflict, during which many women lose access to their contraception and are more at risk of sexual violence. Among other recent examples, the Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated in 2020 the problems of the supply of contraceptives in certain countries such as Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda or Zambia. This interruption of services would have led to 1.4 million additional unplanned pregnancies, according to the first report of the Commission on the Nairobi summit published in 2021.

Regarding Ukraine, there is still a lack of data to know the security and sexual health conditions of refugees, but nearly 250,000 women were pregnant at the start of the war, according to Natalia Kanem, who warns of their degraded healthcare situation. “Our report shows that these fundamental rights are underestimated in times of peace and undermined in times of conflict”insists the doctor.

Unsafe abortions

In general, the authors of the report estimate that approximately 257 million women who do not wish to become pregnant do not yet use safe and modern means of contraception such as condoms, the pill or the IUD. Among them, 172 million do not use any. It is not so much access to contraceptives that poses a problem as the demand from women. According to a Brazilian study conducted in 47 countries and published in 2019 in the journal Reproductive Health40.9% of sexually active women do not use any contraceptive method.

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The reasons most often given are fear of side effects, especially for the contraceptive pill, and too infrequent sexual intercourse to require protection. For married women, third-party opposition matters more, while women with less education or living in rural areas highlighted the lack of access and information. Moreover, according to data from the report, almost a quarter of women are unable to say no to a sexual relationship.

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