Unintended pregnancy: top five facts
85 million pregnancies each year are unintended worldwide! That’s an estimated 40 per cent of all pregnancies. Why does it happen? How can you prevent it?
Unintended pregnancies are very common
According to a recent study, one in every four pregnancies in India is unintended. And with younger women and girls, the number gets even higher. Some of the expectant mothers end up having abortions, and nearly all abortions are a result of unintended pregnancy.
In the end, 21 per cent of all babies born were unplanned. This is often due to the fact that mothers aren’t using birth control methods correctly or regularly.
How does it happen?
There are many reasons for unintended pregnancies. Birth control can fail. You might forget the birth control pill, or a condom might break. Or you thought you weren’t ovulating. Or you may have just had a child and thought breastfeeding would protect you.
Some couples also don’t use birth control methods at all, or unreliable methods, like withdrawal. Sometimes, reliable birth control methods aren’t readily available. And, sometimes, in the case of abuse, rape, or coercion, a woman may not be able to negotiate the use of contraception.
Unplanned pregnancies can be a risk for the mother and child
When a woman is planning to get pregnant, she can make sure that she is healthy. This includes taking folic acid, eating healthily, and not smoking or drinking. If a woman isn’t trying to have a child, it may take several weeks to find out that she is pregnant.
The first few weeks are extremely important for the development though. For example, not taking folic acid at the beginning of a pregnancy can lead to a condition called spina bifida. Spina bifida can leave a child disabled for the rest of its life.
What are the options?
When you find out that you are pregnant, you may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do. The best thing to start with is to find someone you trust, who you can talk to. This doesn’t have to be your partner (even though your partner should ideally be involved, of course!), but it can be an aunt, a friend, or a sibling.
Having an outsider’s perspective can help you make this decision that will affect the rest of your life.
You have a few options – keeping the child, and either bringing it up yourself or with the help of your family and others. Giving the child away for adoption is another possibility. But for some women, keeping the child is simply not an option, and they might opt to have an abortion.
How can unintended pregnancies be prevented?
The best way to prevent unintended pregnancies is to correctly and consistently use reliable birth control methods. If you haven’t had sex with your partner yet, you should be having a conversation about contraception before you start having sex. It’s both your responsibility!
If you had unprotected sex or your birth control method failed, you can use emergency contraception or e-pills for up to 5 days after it happened. The earlier, the better though!
But it goes further than this. Everybody needs to have access to information on preventing pregnancies, before having sex. Ideally, this should be happening early in school and/or at home, but sadly, this often doesn’t happen.