25 september 2015

Unintended Pregnancy and Contraception: It’s Your Life – It’s Your Future

World Contraception Day – September 26, 2015

The Problem at a Glance


When pregnancy is unintended, or when it happens too early in life, the consequences are far-reaching. It affects the woman, her family and her entire community.

  • Of the 208 million pregnancies that occur worldwide each year, 41% are unplanned. Of these, nearly half end in abortion.
  • In 2014 an estimated 225 million women who wanted to avoid getting pregnant did not have access to an effective method of contraception.
  • 11% of all births are to women aged 15–19 years. That’s around 16 million adolescent pregnancies per year. • For women in this age bracket, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death.
  • At least 10% of women who had sex before age 15 report that the encounter was forced. Coercive sex often leads to unplanned adolescent pregnancy.
  • An estimated 33 million unintended pregnancies each year are a result of contraceptive failure or incorrect use. • 95% of adolescent births occur in low and middle income countries.
  • Yet adolescent birth rate is surprisingly high in some developed countries, such as the United States (29,4%), Turkey (29,6%) and Russia (25,2%) – compared with Australia (16,0%), France (9,4%) and Germany (8,0%).
  • Half of all adolescent births occur in Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States.
  • In the United States, at least 75% of adolescent pregnancies are unplanned.
  • Repeated teen pregnancy is common in the United States. In 2013, nearly one in five births was to teenaged girls who already had one or more children.


Women at Risk: The risks of pregnancy and unsafe abortion


Unplanned and adolescent pregnancy puts the health of women around the world at risk, especially in developing countries.

  • In 2013 an estimated 289,000 women died during childbirth.
  • Between 1990 and 2013, the global rate of maternal death increased by 45%.
  • Adolescent pregnancy can lead to anemia, malaria, and postpartum hemorrhage, as well as mental disorders such as depression.
  • Every year, around three million girls aged 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortions.
  • These unsafe abortions are responsible for 13% of all maternal deaths.
  • Nearly one third of all maternal deaths happen in India (50,000 per year) and Nigeria (40,000 per year).
  • In 2013 the global Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) was 210 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  • Almost every abortion-related death and disability could be prevented through sexual education, the effective use of contraception, and the provision of safe, legal abortions with adequate healthcare.
  • Many women cannot access abortions due to restrictive laws, prohibitive costs and regulations, as well as social stigma and moral opposition.



Measuring the Socioeconomic Impact


Unplanned and adolescent pregnancy imposes serious financial costs on society. It drains resources from healthcare systems, puts pressure on social services and keeps people trapped in cycles of poverty and disadvantage.

  • Adolescent pregnancy costs U.S. taxpayers $9.4 – $28 billion a year.
  • Adolescent parents are less likely to achieve economic independence and more likely to rely on welfare and social programs.
  • In the United States, only 38% of women who give birth before age 18 will receive a high school diploma by age 22. One third of teenage mothers who drop out of high school do so because of pregnancy or parenthood. These rates are even higher among African-Americans (38%) and Hispanics (36%).
  • Women are important contributors to the global economy. In sub-Saharan Africa, between 60% and 80% of agricultural workers are female.
  • By improving the position of women in society, we can enhance productivity, make institutions more stable and secure a better future for the next generation.

A report by the Guttmacher Institute found that improvements in sexual and reproductive healthcare will deliver a range of socioeconomic benefits, such as:

  • Growth in GDP and GDP per capita.
  • Increase in the number of working-age adults relative to dependent children.
  • Reduced public expenditure on education, housing, water and sanitation.
  • Less pressure on environmental resources.


With access to Contraceptives, a better Future is possible


If every woman had access to a reliable form of birth control, many of our current problems would be solved. Consider the following projections from the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Unintended pregnancies would drop by 70%, from 74 million to 22 million per year.
  • Maternal deaths would drop by 67%, from 290,000 to 96,000.
  • Infant deaths would drop by 77%, from 2.9 million to 660,000.
  • Transmission of HIV from mothers to newborns would drop by 93%.


There are more than 15 reliable contraceptive methods available. To learn more about these, please visit Your-Life.com.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Sexual Health


Meaningful discussions around pregnancy and childbirth must include the topic of STIs. Yet in many parts of the world, stigma and taboo keep young people dangerously misinformed about their sexual health.

  • Roughly 87% of U.S. public schools teach abstinence as the best method to avoid pregnancy, HIV and other STIs.
  • The faults with this approach are clear: In the United States, people aged 15 – 24 account for half of the 20 million STI cases reported each year.
  • A similar problem exists in Chile, where the religious and political culture strongly discourages teaching young people about contraception. It is common in Chilean schools to promote abstinence instead of teaching comprehensive sexual education. Some politicians condemn mentioning contraception when educating teens about sex and sexuality.
  • Globally, adolescents and young adults under 25 have the highest rates of curable STIs. Each year, one in every 20 adolescents and young adults will develop a new STI.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, HIV-related deaths increased by more than 300%. HIV is now the second most common cause of death for adolescents worldwide.
  • Sexual violence increases the risk of HIV and other STIs. So too does sexual coercion – including promises of money, gifts and upward mobility – which may encourage young women to have unprotected sex with older men.


Education and Contraceptives are more important than ever


The largest cohort of young people in history is now entering childbearing years. Their sexual behavior will have an enormous impact on the global population.

  • More than 17% of the world’s population is aged 15 – 24 years.
  • When preparing for a date that may lead to sex, 44% prioritize personal hygiene – including showering, waxing and applying perfume – over making sure they have an adequate contraceptive.
  • For fear of embarrassment, many young people avoid asking their healthcare professional about contraception. This problem was reported by 55% of Kenyans, 24% of Americans, and 46% of Brazilians, as well as 57% of Chinese women and 50% of Singaporean women.
  • In Argentina, 42% said their main fear was parents or relatives finding out that they were having or about to have sex.
  • 25% – 30% of young people have received inaccurate advice on contraception – usually from friends or the internet, but sometimes also from teachers.
  • In Europe, 45% of adolescents claim to be “well-informed” about contraception. Yet 30% percent believe the withdrawal method is a safe form of birth control.
  • Comprehensive sexual education (CSE) teaches young people their rights and responsibilities concerning sex. It equips them with valuable life skills and empowers them to make autonomous, informed decisions.
  • The evidence suggests that high-quality CSE can delay young people's first sexual experience. It can also discourage unprotected sex and decrease the number of sexual partners young people have.

It’s Your Life – It’s Your Future


World Contraception Day on September 26 is the annual highlight of an ongoing campaign to improve sexual health. Entitled It’s your life – it’s your future, this campaign takes a revolutionary approach to sexual education. Its ultimate goal is a world in which every pregnancy is wanted.


The campaign has a dedicated website, www.your-life.com, where young people can get accurate and unbiased advice on contraception. The content is presented in a straightforward and relatable way, without judging or lecturing.


It’s your life – it’s your future is run by a coalition of twelve international partners:

  • Asian Pacific Council on Contraception (APCOC)
  • Centro Latinoamericano Salud y Mujer (CELSAM)
  • DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung)
  • EngenderHealth
  • European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC)
  • International Federation of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (FIGIJ)
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
  • Marie Stopes International (MSI) Population Services International (PSI)
  • The Population Council
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Women Deliver (WD)


With support from Bayer HealthCare, these organizations are working to empower young people around the world, helping them to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.



Veerle Lenaerts

Communications Manager Bayer HealthCare

Tel: 02/ 535 63 82 - GSM: 0475 30 32 89