Unintended pregnancy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Unintended pregnancies include unwanted pregnancies as well as those that are mistimed. Worldwide, 38% of pregnancies are unintended (some 80 million unintended pregnancies each year). Unintended pregnancies result in about 42 million induced abortions per year, and 34 million unintended births.

Providing modern contraceptives to the 201 million women at risk of unintended pregnancy in developing countries who do not have access to contraception would cost an estimated US$3.9 billion per year. This expenditure would prevent an estimated 52 million unintended pregnancies annually, preventing 1.5 million maternal and child deaths annually, and reduce induced abortions by 64%. Reduced illness related pregnancy would preserve 27 million healthy life years, at a cost of $144 per year of healthy life.


Early ways of preventing unwanted pregnancy included withdrawal and various alternatives to intercourse; they are difficult to use correctly and, while much better than no method, have high failure rates compared to modern methods. Various devices and medications thought to have spermicidal, contraceptive, abortifacient or similar properties were also used.

Abortions have been induced to prevent unwanted births since antiquity, abortion methods are described in some of the earliest medical texts. The degree of safety of early methods relative to the risks of child birth is unclear.

Infanticide (‘customary neonaticide’) or abandonment (sometimes in the form of exposure) are other traditional way of dealing with babies that were not wanted or that a family could not support. Opinions on the morality or desirability of the practices have changed through history.

Where modern contraceptives are not available, abortion has sometimes been used as a major way of preventing birth. For instance in much of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics in the 1980s, desired family size was small, but modern contraceptive methods were not readily available, so many couples relied on abortion, which was legal, safe, and readily accessible, to regulate births. In many cases, as contraceptives became more available the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion dropped rapidly during the 1990s.

In the 19th and 20th century, the desired number of pregnancies has declined as reductions in infant and childhood mortality have increased the probability that children will reach adulthood. Other factors, such as level of education and economic opportunities for women, have also lead to reductions in the desired number of children. As the number of desired number of children decreases, couples spend more of their reproductive lives trying to avoid unintended pregnancies.

In society and culture

Unintended pregnancy can be an indicator of premarital sex, which may carry social stigma, result in persecution or honor killing. Sometimes, in order to prevent illegitimate children, forced marriages result. Such marriages typically have poorer outcomes than voluntary marriage.

In many industrialized nations there is increasing acceptance of premarital sex, single parenting, and children born outside wedlock.

Unintended pregnancy is common as a cause of stress or social stigma in fictional works. It plays a role in many portrayals of illegitimacy and teen pregnancy.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Unintended pregnancy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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