High Unintended Pregnancy Rates in Rwanda a Cause for Concern

Recent findings from a national survey on the incidence of unintended pregnancy and abortion in Rwanda show that in 2009, 47% of pregnancies in Rwanda were unintended.
During the dissemination of the study report: Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Rwanda: Causes and Consequences at the 1st Rwanda Family Planning Day event held on March 23, 2013 in Kigali, it was revealed that about half (47%) of all pregnancies in the country were unintended, of which 22% of those were ending in induced abortion. This is despite the halving of unmet needs for contraceptives among married Rwandan women (a fall from 36% in 2000 to 19% in 2010).

The Family Planning Day event brought together key policy makers and practitioners (Ministry of Health officials, doctors, lawyers, researchers and NGO’s working the area of Family Planning) who debated the results and formulated recommendations to be adopted for policy. The policy recommendations included the call to: extend Post Abortion Care (PAC) provision nationally without discrimination and without focussing on legal issues, sensitize the community on the new abortion penal code, increase access to emergency contraceptives nationally and better integrate PAC with family planning services.

The study done by the National University of Rwanda/ School of Public Health (NURSPH) and the Guttmacher Institute further showed that unsafe abortions were endangering women’s health whereby some 26,000 women are treated in health facilities for complications of abortion each year, of which 17,000 are likely to be from induced abortions, translating to a rate of 25 induced abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44, after estimating unreported cases. This is despite the legal restrictions and strong stigma around abortion.

“An induced abortion performed outside the law often is unsafe. In Rwanda an estimated 40% of clandestine abortions lead to complications requiring treatment in a health facility” the report states.

According to the study, a third of women experiencing abortion related complications are quite likely to suffer debilitating consequences as they do not present themselves for treatment. This is a cause of concern as half of all abortions are reported to be performed by untrained individuals (34% traditional healers, 17% self-induced).

Strengthening of contraceptive services and improving of post-abortion care services are among key recommendations of the study which are informed by the need to address the main cause of abortion - unintended pregnancies.
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