UNFPA report shows almost half of the world’s pregnancies were unintended

on 31 March 2022

The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population 2022 report shows nearly half of all pregnancies were unintended.

The report highlights over 60% of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion, with 45% of all abortions considered unsafe, causing 5-13% of all maternal deaths.

“Seeing the Unseen” is the title for this year’s State of the World Population report, calling for “action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy.”

UNFPA Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem, said: “This report is a wakeup call. The staggering number of unintended pregnancies represents a global failure to uphold women and girls’ basic human rights. For the women affected, the most life-altering reproductive choice – whether or not to become pregnant – is no choice at all. 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.”

Key factors of unintended pregnancy included lack of sexual health and reproductive health care and information, contraceptive options that don’t suit women’s bodies and circumstances, harmful norms and stigma around women controlling their own fertility and bodies, sexual violence and reproductive coercion, judgemental attitudes and shaming in health services, poverty and stalled economic development, and gender inequality.

Crisis and conflict has also been cited as a factor for unintended pregnancies, with women losing access to contraceptives, and other studies showing that over 20% of refugee women and girls will face sexual violence.

According to UNFPA, the war in Afghanistan is expected to cause 4.8 million unintended pregnancies by 2025, which could disrupt the country’s stability, peace and recovery.

“If you had 15 minutes to leave your house, what would you take? Would you grab your passport? Food? Would you remember your contraception? In the days, weeks and months after a crisis starts, sexual and reproductive health and protection services save lives, shield women and girls from harm and prevent unintended pregnancies. They are as vital as food, water and shelter,” Dr Natalia Kenem added.

During the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic the estimated disruption in contraceptive supplies and services lasted 3.6 months, leading to approximately 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.

The State of the Population Report 2022 can be accessed here.