Unwanted Pregnancy – The Stats

Grace O'Sullivan

There are many downsides to discovering that your missed period is indeed a result of an unplanned, crisis pregnancy. So is there a way of ensuring that you don’t end up adding to the unfortunate stats?

What is the point of contraception? You might think that the answer to this question was obvious. But if it is, then why are there so many unplanned pregnancies every year in Ireland? It is a good question.

This is not about pointing the finger of blame at anyone. Men and women alike make mistakes. Some forms of contraception are more prone to 'user error' than others. A condom slips off. You forget to take the pill. It happens.

Besides, in real life, sometimes events take over and people decide spontaneously to have sex. We should all be prepared for eventualities like this – of course we should! But too often we are not...

The downside of an unplanned pregnancy can be very serious indeed.

In the first instance, you are faced with a series of dilemmas: “Should I go through with the pregnancy or seek a termination? And if I do decide to have a baby, then what will I do afterwards? How will the arrival of a child affect me as a person? How will it affect my career? Will the father contribute?” And so on...

The questions are endless. And answers can be hard to come by.

Of course, women have always had to deal with unintended eventualities like this, associated with sex. It is good to know that whatever you are experiencing, the likelihood is that someone has been down that road before. But that doesn’t make it any less painful if circumstances are against you.

For sure, people are often better at coping than they might expect. And, so, many women decide to carry through an unplanned pregnancy and feel no regret whatsoever about it in the long run. But that is frequently not a choice that a particular woman feels she can make.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland, except in extreme cases where the women’s life is at risk, including where the woman is suicidal. As a result, the thousands of Irish women who decide, every year, that they will not go through with unplanned pregnancies have no option but to travel abroad to carry that decision through.

The reality is that abortion is a last resort that, in an ideal world, no woman would have to choose. But choose it many thousands do.

In 2014, 3,725 women and girls gave an Irish address at abortion clinics in England and Wales. This is a 1.52% increase on 2013’s figure.

This is not the total number of women who travelled to get an abortion. Some may have concealed their address; others travel to other parts of Europe like the Netherlands or Germany.

Current estimates are that at least 12 women have to leave Ireland every day and travel abroad in order to get an abortion.

Abortion rates are highest amongst 20-24 year olds.

Up to 80% of abortions are to single women.

These women are often forced to carry the entire financial, practical and emotional burden alone...

All of which leads us back to the same conclusion. The old saying that prevention is far better than cure fits perfectly here. Life is precious. And so there is really nothing to do with procreation that should be taken lightly.

By all means, there are dozens of wonderfully fulfilling things that we can do to enjoy ourselves sexually, which don’t involve penetration. But the natural impulse to have full sex is a strong one. Women and men alike want to make love, in the fullest possible meaning of that phrase. And the only way to know that we can do that safely is to decide what we are doing about contraception 24/7, and 365 days of the year.

According to statistics, 28% of women and 23% of men have dealt with an unwanted pregnancy. You really don’t want to add to that number any time soon. Be careful out there...

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