Almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, according to WebMD. A study done between 1995 and 2008 included a South African figure of 59 per cent of pregnancies being unintended, slightly higher than the US figure. Half of the surprise pregnancies in the latter study ended in intended abortions.
Scary teen pregnancy stats
Another study conducted by Partners in Sexual Health found that 30 per cent of all teens reported “ever having been pregnant”, and that the majority of those pregnancies were unplanned.
If you’re wondering if an unplanned pregnancy could ever happen to you, then, WebMD suggests that if you’re a woman who hasn’t been through menopause (and you’re sexually active), the probability is that yes, it could happen to you.
Since the only birth control that’s 100 per cent effective is abstinence, even efforts made to prevent a pregnancy by using birth control may not work. Here are the approximate effectiveness rates of different kinds of contraceptives/birth control methods:
Figures: how many women/100 will become pregnant:
• Birth control pills (combination): 1 if used perfectly, 9 if used typically*
• Female sterilisation: 1*
• IUD (intrauterine device)/ copper IUD: 1*
• Hormone injections: 1 if used perfectly*
• Hormone implants: 1*
• Hormone patch: 1 if used perfectly*
• Lactational amenorrhoia: 2 (not menstruating, fully breastfeeding)
• Male condom: 2 if used perfectly, 18 if not
• Female condoms: 5 if used perfectly, 25 if used typically
• Cervical cap: 9 if used perfectly, 14 if not
• Diaphragm: 9 if used perfectly, 12 if not
• Spermicides: 18 if used perfectly, 28 if not
• Withdrawal: 4 if used perfectly, 22 if used typically
• Natural family planning: 24
• No contraception: 85
These figures come from YoungWomensHealth.org and represent only the perfect use of these methods, deviation from perfect use causes a massive rise in pregnancy rates. (*= or fewer than 1)
So you may not be planning to have a baby – indeed, you be actively using methods to avoid having a baby – but surprise pregnancies are more frequent than you probably expected. Becoming pregnant is a life-changing experience, even if you already have one or more children.
The possibility that you could, in theory, be pregnant may influence your lifestyle choices. You may choose to drink less alcohol if you’re trying to conceive (or give it up completely) and you may also choose to eat more healthily. An unplanned pregnancy prevents you from making such choices, unless you’re already living healthily.
As mentioned previously, half of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, still a taboo topic of discussion for many couples due to particular religious/moral/ethical/personal belief systems. For other women it simply makes sense to have an abortion if you’re not prepared to have a baby.
Are you ready?
The figures may make you think, however: are you ready to have a baby right now? Is your partner ready to have a baby? If not, you may consider choosing a birth control method with a more effective success rate than the one you are using. You could speak to someone at your local family planning clinic or your doctor about which method would be most effective for you.
Consider having a meaningful discussion with your teen child, if you have one. While teens may be aware of the basics of one or two birth control methods, they probably have not had an in-depth discussion on all the methods and the failure rates for these methods. Even if your teen is not supposed to be sexually active (or claims not to be), being forearmed with correct information can help to prevent an unanticipated pregnancy.
Did you plan your pregnancy or was it a surprise?