Unintended pregnancy has dire consequences on the health and socioeconomic wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) (aged 15–24 years). While most studies tend to focus on lack of access to contraceptive information and services, and poverty as the main contributing factor to early unintended pregnancies, the influence of sexual violence has received limited attention. Understanding the link between sexual violence and unintended pregnancy is critical towards developing a multifaceted intervention to reduce unintended pregnancies among AGYW in South Africa, a country with high teenage pregnancy rate. Thus, we estimated the magnitude of unintended pregnancy among AGYW and also examined the effect of sexual violence on unintended pregnancy. The analysis shows that 41.9% of all respondents had experienced an unintended pregnancy, and 26.3% of those unintended pregnancies ended in abortions. Unintended pregnancy was higher among survivors of sexual violence (54.4%) compared to those who never experienced sexual abuse (34.3%). In the multivariable analysis, sexual violence was consistently and robustly associated with increased odds of having an unintended pregnancy (AOR:1.70; 95% CI: 1.08–2.68). Our study found a huge magnitude of unintended pregnancy among AGYW. Sexual violence is an important predictor of unintended pregnancy in this age cohort. Thus, addressing unintended pregnancies among AGYW in South Africa requires interventions that not only increase access to contraceptive information and services but also reduce sexual violence and cater for survivors.
BMC Public Health, 20, 1370 (2020)
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