Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the research from La Trobe’s Judith Lumley Centre is the first Australian population study to investigate unintended pregnancies and their outcomes.
The researchers surveyed more than 2500 women.
One in four (26 per cent) of the almost 1400 women who had been pregnant in the previous decade said they had an unplanned pregnancy.*
More than two thirds (68 per cent) of the women who had an unintended pregnancies said the pregnancy was wanted. About half (53.6 per cent) gave birth, less than a third (30.4 per cent) had an abortion and about 15 per cent had miscarriages.
If the unplanned pregnancies were unwanted the rate of abortions was much higher (83 per cent).
Lead researcher Dr Angela Taft said the study found the majority of women who had an unintended pregnancy were not using contraception at the time they fell pregnant.
“In Australia, we have access to a wide and affordable range of contraception and it’s concerning to discover many women and their partners who are not planning to fall pregnant are not taking any precautions,” Dr Taft said.
“Clinicians and other health professionals should be encouraging women most at risk of mistimed pregnancies, including those who have already had a number of children, to use contraception if they want to avoid a surprise pregnancy.
“Effective contraception would reduce our rate of unwanted pregnancies.”
The research found women aged 25 to 29 were the most likely (27.7 per cent) to have an unintended pregnancy, followed by those aged 30 to 34 (24.6 per cent). The rate of unplanned pregnancies among teens was lower (11.7 per cent) than for women aged 35 to 39 (14.8 per cent).
“Planned parenthood at any age is preferable because it allows women and their partners to better prepare themselves physically, emotionally and financially. It also has important health benefits for both mothers and babies,” Dr Taft said.
*The researchers conducted random telephone surveys across Australia between December 2014 and May 2015 of 2013 women, aged 18 to 45.
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