International Family Planning Perspectives

The toll of unwanted pregnancy

The toll of unwanted pregnancy

Lane, Trevor

Over the six years following the UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), unwanted pregnancies led to the deaths of nearly 700,000 women worldwide, accounting for about 21% of maternal mortality. According to estimates from a Global Health Council report, at least 338 million unwanted pregnancies occurred during that period. Of these, about 251 million ended in abortion, resulting in 441,000 maternal deaths. An additional 88 million unwanted pregnancies were carried to term, with 246,000 women dying from complications of pregnancy, labor and delivery. Rates of death were much lower in industrialized countries than in developing countries, where women are less likely to have ready access to skilled obstetric care and safe abortion services. For example, 675 of every 100,000 abortions and 857 of every 100,000 births resulting from an unwanted pregnancy led to a maternal death in Africa, compared with one per 100,000 abortions and 11 per 100,000 births in North America. The authors of the report conclude that these statistics are “evidence of a serious health crisis… that will only deepen as more women move into their prime reproductive years.”

Copyright Alan Guttmacher Institute Dec 2002

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