First national estimates of unwanted pregnancies and abortions

The Guttmacher Institute, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Special Program for Research in Human Reproduction (HRP) released today the first-ever model-based estimates of unintended pregnancy and abortion rates in 150 countries, highlighting the wide disparities in access to sexuality and reproductive health care.

The study published in the journal BMJ Global Healthanalyzes rates from 2015 to 2019 with the aim of providing deeper insights into access to sexual and reproductive health services in countries around the world, regardless of income level.

“In order to design truly inclusive and equitable sexual and reproductive health policies, we need to understand what’s happening at the national level,” said Dr.concerning Herminia Palacio, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Current and reliable data will not only help identify inequalities and find solutions, but also inform smarter investments that make an impact. »

Along with the estimates, the Guttmacher Institute has released more detailed country profiles to enable policymakers and health professionals to better understand and respond to sexual and reproductive health needs in their countries, particularly in the area of ​​family planning, including contraception and more comprehensive abortion care.

Regional averages hide large differences in rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortion

The new estimates show that rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortion vary widely from country to country, even within the same region or geographic area. The greatest disparities were observed in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, where, for example, unintended pregnancy rates ranged from 41 to 107 per 1000 women and 49 to 145 per 1000 women in each country, respectively.

These differences are not only influenced by income level: in Europe, for example, most countries with unplanned pregnancy rates above the regional average are classified as high-income, while the two countries with the lowest estimates are classified as middle-income. This result reflects the existence of barriers to accessing and using effective sexual and reproductive health care in more or less resourced settings.

“These disparities speak to the need to invest even in regions with low rates of unintended pregnancies, so that women and girls in all countries can choose the circumstances in which they want to have children,” says Jonathan Bearak, senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute and first author of the article. “The proportion of unwanted pregnancies that end in termination of pregnancy – reaching 68% even among countries that have outright banned abortion – shows the strength of the will of millions of women and adolescent girls to avoid unwanted pregnancy. »

Although estimates go a long way in improving the quality of available evidence, there is still an urgent need for more and better evidence. The availability of reliable abortion data varies greatly by region, ranging from 12% of countries in West Asia and North Africa to 73% of countries in Europe and North America. With additional investment in national data collection, it would be possible to produce estimates with greater certainty, follow trends and potentially assess the impact of large-scale programs in the future.

Sexual and reproductive health and related rights are an essential part of universal health coverage and necessary to end discrimination against women and girls. These country-level estimates underscore the importance of equitable investment in comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and will further inform countries as they strive to implement the new WHO guidelines for sexual and reproductive health services.

“For good health, people in countries around the world need access to comprehensive and accurate information and services related to sex education and family planning, as well as health care. Quality abortion,” the said Dconcerning Bela Ganatra, Head of the Division of Unsafe Abortion Prevention at WHO. “This research aims to support countries in their efforts to strengthen the life-saving sexual and reproductive health services they provide and improve health outcomes, particularly for women and girls. »


Country-specific numbers and rates of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, as well as the proportion of these pregnancies ending in abortion, are determined using a statistical model. This model incorporates and uses all available data on pregnancy intention and abortion among women of reproductive age collected in all countries and territories.

About the Guttmacher Institute

The Guttmacher Institute is an organization that conducts cutting-edge research and policy work to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and around the world.

About HRP

The UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Program for Human Reproductive Research, Development and Research Training (HRP) is the principal vehicle within the United Nations system for human reproductive research; It brings together policymakers, scientists, healthcare providers, clinicians, consumers and community representatives to identify and address research priorities to improve sexual and reproductive health.

About who

Founded in 1948, WHO is the United Nations agency that connects nations, partners and people to promote health, ensure global security and serve vulnerable populations – so that everyone, everywhere, can achieve the highest possible level of health.

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