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Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2002 Mar;11(3):192-204.

[Unwanted pregnancy: impact on health and society in Latin America and the Caribbean].

[Article in Spanish]

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Population Council, Oficina Regional para América Latina y el Caribe, Escondida # 110, Col. Villa Coyoacán, México, D.F. 04000, México.


Engaging in sexuality and reproduction should always be something that is wanted and planned. Unfortunately, when that is not the case, one result can be unwanted pregnancy. Unwanted pregnancies have consequences for women, their families, and their countries. This document reviews the causes and results of unwanted pregnancy, emphasizing the impact that this problem has on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Four reasons why unwanted pregnancy is a continuing problem in LAC are: 1) people's growing desire to have smaller families, 2) the unmet need for family planning, 3) the fact that contraceptive methods are not 100% effective, and 4) unwanted sexual relations. Unwanted pregnancies especially affect adolescent women, single women, and women over 40 years of age. Given their desperate situation with an unwanted pregnancy, some women opt for an unsafe abortion, which can lead to their death. Other women can go so far as to commit suicide, or be murdered by a family member or other person who is unhappy that the pregnancy has occurred. It has been found that women who decide to continue with the pregnancy have higher risks of suffering an illness, and the same is true for the child. Reducing unwanted pregnancies and treating post-abortion complications are key to lowering maternal mortality and morbidity. This necessitates developing mass communication programs that address gender issues, education programs for girls, and sex education programs. It is also vital to make available to all persons reproductive health services that include family planning methods. In the countries of LAC with laws that specify grounds for legally ending a pregnancy, it is necessary that health care be organized to actually provide this service, and that health care programs obtain the safest, most effective technologies now available for ending a pregnancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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