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Contraception. 2008 Jul;78(1):73-8. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2008.03.002. Epub 2008 May 14.

Unintended pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa: magnitude of the problem and potential role of contraceptive implants to alleviate it.

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Family Health International, PO Box 13950, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.



Unintended pregnancies continue to burden many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Our aim was to estimate the number of unintended pregnancies in the region and model the impact of expanding use of contraceptive implants at the expense of short-term hormonal birth control methods.


For the 42 countries in mainland sub-Saharan Africa, we estimated current levels of unintended pregnancy, prevalence of hormonal contraceptive use and number of unintended pregnancies stemming from early discontinuation and typical method failure rates. Using a decision-analytic model, we estimated the potential impact of more widespread use of the contraceptive implant.


Every year in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 14 million unintended pregnancies occur and a sizeable proportion is due to poor use of short-term hormonal methods. If 20% of the 17.6 million women using oral contraceptives or injectables wanted long-term protection and switched to the contraceptive implant, over 1.8 million unintended pregnancies could be averted over a 5-year period.


Poor patterns of short-term hormonal contraceptive use (high discontinuation rates and incorrect use) contribute significantly to the problem of unintended pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa. More availability and widespread use of highly effective methods, such as the contraceptive implant, will improve reproductive health in the region.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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