Pregnancies occurring when children are unexpected could lead to problems such as unsafe abortion, mental illness and negative quality of women's lives, researchers from Ghana say, adding that in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) few studies have explored such pregnancies.
SSA countries with a high prevalence of unintended pregnancies such as Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe need to consider successful interventions of other countries within the region to reduce such cases, the researchers advise. These include health education, counselling, skills-building, comprehensive sex education and access to contraception.
Abdul-Aziz Seidu, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the Department of Population and Health, University of Cape Coast, Ghana, says: "We embarked on the study due to our extensive search which indicated that no effort has been made to investigate the phenomenon across Sub-Saharan Africa.
"As most unintended pregnancies occur in low- and middle-income countries, there was a critical need to investigate the underlying factors for unintended pregnancies among women in the region."
The study found the overall prevalence of unintended pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa to be 29 per cent, ranging from 10.8 per cent in Nigeria to 54.5 per cent in Namibia.
The study published this month (9 August) in PLOS One resulted from the analysis of demographic and health surveys from 29 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that were carried out from January 2010 to December 2016. Researchers evaluated the occurrence of and factors associated with unintended pregnancies.
Seidu tells SciDev.Net that compared with women who were 15 to 19 years old, all other women had higher likelihood of unintended pregnancies, with married women more likely than those who had never married to report the occurrence.
"Women with primary and secondary levels of education had less chances of unintended pregnancies compared with those with no education," explains Seidu. "Women in all other wealth categories had less probability of unintended pregnancies compared with women with poorest wealth status."
Seidu adds that promoting the use of modern contraceptives could help reduce the incidence of such pregnancies.
"Governments of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and reproductive health-focused organisations that operate in the region should strengthen health education, counselling, skills-building and access to contraception," he says. Ayo Adebusoye, chairman of the Lagos state advocacy working group on family planning in Nigeria, tells SciDev.Net that the findings should serve as a wake-up call for all policymakers in Sub-Saharan Africa to prioritise the issue of family planning and design interventions to curb the increasing rate of unplanned pregnancies.
With Africa's population increasing and the fact that it has been predicted that in the next 30 years the African continent would be the world's poverty capital, something needs to be done, Adebusoye adds.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.
Edward Kwabena Ameyaw and others Prevalence and determinants of unintended pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa: A multi-country analysis of demographic and health surveys (PLOS One, 9 August 2019)