The rate of unplanned pregnancies varies around the world. The number is particularly high among teenagers and poor sectors of the population, but it is also seen among women over 35, both single and married. While the total number of unplanned pregnancies has diminished over the past few decades, the percentage remains high among teenagers.
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As a general statistic, the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York estimates that up to 49 per cent of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. This includes pregnancies happening both inside marriage (or committed relationships) and those happening to single women. In fact, the study shows that 48 per cent of women under 44 have been through an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives. While more than 50 per cent of these pregnancies still result in abortion, the total numbers of unplanned pregnancies (both resulting in abortion and in continuation of the pregnancy) have been in decline since 1987, especially in the population over 30.
Unplanned pregnancies are more common among the poor, uneducated sectors of the population, which either don't have access to affordable birth control or don't have the knowledge to protect themselves. In the U.S., most unplanned pregnancies happen in women under 24 who are members of a minority (especially black or Hispanic) and are low-income. Around the world, statistics are similar. In Scotland, for example, a 2007 study by the Public Health Ministry showed that one in every 10 teenagers living in a poor area of the country becomes pregnant by the age of 16, while only one of every 40 living in middle class or above situations will experience the same.
Teenagers have a higher risk of unplanned pregnancies than any other age group. In the U.S., 82 per cent of teenage pregnancies are unplanned. The number rose significantly in 2007, reaching the highest number of the last 15 years. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the 4-percent increase may be due to a feeling of isolation and the idea that having a baby will fill this void. Still, most teenage pregnancies are not planned and 90 per cent of teens claim absolute surprise when they are told they are expecting.
Around the world, the number of unplanned pregnancies varies considerably depending on the quality of health care and the economic power of a country. The highest rate of unplanned pregnancies in the world occur in Africa and parts of Asia, especially in countries where women marry young. Sub-Saharan Africa and Niger have the highest percentage of any country in the world, at 233 unplanned pregnancies per every 1,000 women, followed by Bangladesh and India. The lowest rates belong to industrialised countries, such as the Netherlands (5 pregnancies per 1,000 women) and South Korea (3 per 1,000).
Unplanned pregnancies among users of birth control depends on many factors. Healthwise, a non-profit agency reporting on health issues, reports that most cases of unplanned pregnancy in women currently on birth control are due to human error (forgetting to taking a pill, placing a condom incorrectly). This is even more likely when using barrier methods, such as condoms, spermicide (with or without a vaginal ring) and the sponge, with anywhere between 15 and 32 out of every 100 women becoming pregnant after a year of usage. Among those using natural methods, such as withdrawal or periodic abstinence, the risk for unplanned pregnancies goes up to 40 per cent.