SPHPM researchers have identified four key factors involved in unintended pregnancies in Australia, in a first-of-its-kind study, Understanding Fertility Management in Contemporary Australia, about risk and protective factors for successful management of fertility among women and men.
The research from the Jean Hailes Research Unit (JHRU) found that living in a rural area, socioeconomic disadvantage, men born overseas and a past experience of sexual coercion are independently associated with unintended pregnancies in Australia.
Dr Heather Rowe who led the publication said that the research provides new and important data on distribution and risk factors for unintended pregnancies, which can now be used to inform clinical and public health measures for prevention.
“Unintended pregnancies in Australia remain prevalent, despite an estimated 70% of women of a reproductive age using contraceptives. An unintended pregnancy can be cause for emotional distress as well as social and religious disapproval, and create adverse consequences for the quality of antenatal care, breastfeeding and child nutrition,” Dr Rowe said.
“The higher odds of unintended pregnancies in rural areas suggests concerns regarding access to contraceptives and health services where the provider may be known to the client outside the clinical setting, among other factors.”
The research also highlighted that people experiencing social disadvantage had twice the odds of an unintended pregnancy compared with more socially-advantaged people. It is unclear why men born overseas are significantly more likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy than men born in Australia.
“This may relate to unintended pregnancies that occurred some time ago when contraceptive practices and attitudes were different, or that social discourses about fertility control and sex differ for men born overseas. This finding will benefit from further investigation.
“The last finding that previous sexual coercion doubles the odds of unintended pregnancy is of concern and also notable because it applied to both men and women,” Dr Rowe said.
Another finding from the survey was the low level of knowledge of fertile days in the menstrual cycle (a few days leading up to and the days around mid-cycle about two weeks before menstruation starts). Only 40% of women and 20% of men indicated an accurate understanding. Over 90% of both men and women believe that contraception should be a shared responsibility.
The research was conducted via an anonymous survey of men and women across the Australian population, broadly representative of gender, partner status, education, socioeconomic status, health insurance and religious affiliation.
(Source: Monash University)