Curbing Escalating Rate Of Unplanned Pregnancies In Nigeria

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By The Society For Media Advocacy On Health, Nigeria |

Unplanned pregnancies, which is referred to a pregnancy that is either unintended which occurred when no children or no more children were desired, or is mistimed, occurred earlier than desired has been escalating in Nigeria recently.

The 2018 global family planning report showed that Nigeria recorded over 1.3 million unplanned pregnancies in 2018 and only 13.8 percent of Nigerian women use contraceptives within the period.

Despite these frightening statistics, the report further revealed that Nigeria’s domestic spending on family planning is worth $8.5 million (2016) as compared to $19 million in Kenya and $8.1 million in Burkina Faso.

In addition, a study titled, “Prevalence and Determinants of Unintended Pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa, A Multi-country Analysis of Demographic and Health Surveys” showed that approximately 14 million unplanned pregnancies occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), while the overall unplanned pregnancy prevalence rate is 29 percent in the region, ranging from 10.8 percent in Nigeria to 54.5 percent in Namibia.

In evaluation with women aged 15 to 19 years, the research reveals, “Women of all other age categories had higher odds of unplanned pregnancies. Married women were more probable to report unplanned pregnancies as compared to women who had never married. The phenomenon had higher odds among rural residents as compared to urban residents.

“Women with primary and secondary levels of education had less chance of unintended pregnancies, compared to those with no education. Again, women in all other wealth categories had less probability of unintended pregnancy, as compared to women with poorest wealth status.”

Sadly, unplanned pregnancy predisposes women to several risk factors such as unsafe abortion, maternal death, malnutrition, mental illness and vertical transmission of HIV to children.

As unplanned increases the stress levels of women, it impacts negatively on their quality of life and threatens the economic status of families.

To curb the trend, stakeholders advocate consistent political will from governments at all levels as a method  of reducing the high rate of unplanned pregnancies recorded annually in Nigeria.

At 576 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, Nigeria accounts for roughly 14 percent of the global burden of maternal mortality, the World Health Organisation(WHO) reports.

The Demographic Health Survey (DHS 2003, 2008, 2013) data further revealed that the average age at sexual debut is roughly 15 years of age among adolescent mothers in Nigeria, while the national adolescent fertility rate in Nigeria is 122 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 years.

Unfortunately, the figure in the northwestern states is as high as 171 births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19 years.

Ironically, global evidence shows that young girls in Nigeria bear a higher burden of maternal mortality and morbidity, yet they face a wide range of barriers in accessing high-quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.

The barriers include laws and policies that require parental or partner consent, distance from facilities, costs of services, long wait times for services, inconvenient hours, lack of necessary commodities at health facilities, and lack of privacy and confidentiality.

Other obstacles are restrictive norms and stigma around adolescent and youth sexuality; inequitable or harmful gender norms; discrimination and judgment of adolescents by communities, families, partners, and providers and limited or incorrect knowledge of SRH.

To prevent unplanned pregnancy among youths, the Federal and State Governments should create a specific budget line for youth-friendly healthcare services.

Indeed, Nigeria must review key sexual reproductive health (SRH) policies and implementation of laws and train healthcare providers on youth-friendly health service delivery if the country seriously aims at curbing unplanned pregnancies.

For instance, Lagos State is among Nigeria’s States that have taken bold steps to increase young people’s access to youth-friendly SRH services over the years.

Despite this promising development, there is strong evidence that the response in Lagos state is still largely donor-dependent.

Unarguably, there is an urgent need to increase discussion around adolescents and youth SRH and family (FP) issues at all levels and then increase funding to sufficiently meet the SRH/FP need of the high-risk sexual behaviour of Nigeria’s rapidly growing young population.

The 2018 global family planning report should serve as a wake-up call for Nigerian governments, to prioritise the issue of family planning and come up with interventions to curb the increasing rate of unplanned pregnancies in Africa’s most populous country.

With the rapid increase in Nigeria’s population put at over 211 million, something needs to be done urgently.

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