10 October 2018

Shedding light on unplanned pregnancy

Clinical Women

Despite more options in effective contraception, safe sex campaigns and ready access to emergency contraception, it appears one in four pregnancies come as a surprise, new research shows. 

A telephone survey of more than 2000 18-45-year-old women, found that, of the 70% who had fallen pregnant in the past 10 years, one quarter had experienced an unintentional pregnancy.

And while almost a third of these unintentional pregnancies were terminated, the surprise was not always unwelcome, with 68% of the women saying the child was wanted. 

More than half of the women who experienced an unintended pregnancy were not using contraception at the time.

Of those who were using contraception, 64% took oral contraceptives, 27% used condoms, and 6% had opted for long-acting reversible contraception. 

“Despite the availability of effective contraception in Australia, we found that, as in the United States, about half of the unintended pregnancies were in women not using contraception,” the authors said. 

Dr Philip Goldstone, the medical director at Marie Stopes Australia and a GP based in Sydney, said the data reflected previous studies, particularly regarding the type of contraception reportedly being used.

National abortion figures are hard to come by in Australia, with only South Australia and Western Australia state governments regularly collecting data.

Prior to this telephone survey in 2014-2015, the only other national survey was conducted in 2005. 

“When it comes to data on unplanned pregnancies and more specifically, terminations of pregnancy, there is a real gap at a national level,” said Dr Goldstone.

“This research is important because it provides an insight into the number of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies and the paths that they choose to take once the pregnancy is confirmed.

“Research that can provide a snapshot on unplanned pregnancies and terminations is also important to continue the conversation on why we need to make sure women have access to support services to help them deal with an unplanned pregnancy, regardless of whether they choose to continue the pregnancy or not.”

MJA, 8 October