Skip to main content

Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women: an updated meta-analysis

Abstract

Background

Unwanted pregnancy is a global issue with adverse outcomes for the mother, child, family, and society. Previous studies in Iran have reported different prevalence rates for unwanted pregnancy. This meta-analysis was aimed at estimating the overall prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women.

Methods

A total of 20 articles in English or Persian, published between 2012 and December 2018, were collected. The search was conducted in national and international databases, including Scientific Information Database (SID), MagIran, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science, using the following keywords: ‘Unplanned pregnancy’, ‘Unintended pregnancy’, ‘Unwanted pregnancy’, and ‘Mistimed pregnancy’. The data were analyzed using the meta-analysis method and the random effects model. Heterogeneity among studies was assessed using the I2 statistic. All analyses were performed using Stata, version 12.

Results

Analysis of 20 studies with a total sample size of 16,298 showed that the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women was 26% (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 23–28). This prevalence was higher in the regions 5 and 2 of Iran (27%) than the other regions, and had no significant decrease between 2012 and 2018 (p = 0. 937).

Conclusion

More than one-fourth of pregnancies among Iranian women are unwanted. Providing training programs for couples who do not plan to have children along with the support policies aimed at stimulating population growth, can be an important step in overcoming the issue of unwanted pregnancy and reducing the illegal abortions related to it.

Peer Review reports

Background

Unwanted pregnancy refers to a pregnancy that is mistimed or unwanted by one or both partners [1, 2].Of 210 million pregnancies that occur each year throughout the word, about 80 million (40%) are unwanted, and one in 10 women ends her pregnancy by an unsafe abortion [3]. Most of unwanted pregnancies occur in developing countries, and this problem increases the risk of mortality for both mother and child [4]. In Iran, 80,000 intentional abortions occur each year, mostly as a result of unwanted pregnancy [5].

Unwanted pregnancy can lead to increased stress, high risk behaviors, delay in prenatal care, and lack of desire to seek social support during pregnancy, therefore reducing the quality of life of women [1, 6]. Children born from unwanted pregnancy are more likely to be neglected by their parents and often have a poor relationship with their mother [5]. Due to the mother’s lack of interest in having a child, the risk of malnutrition, mortality, and mistreatment is higher in children born from unwanted pregnancy [7]. One of the complications of unwanted pregnancy is inadequate care or delay is receiving medical care during pregnancy that may lead to hypertension, preterm labor, low birth weight, negative feelings and feeling more pain during delivery due to experiencing unpleasant emotions during pregnancy, and depression before or after labor [7,8,9].

The actual prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in Iran may be higher than the reported rates, because in the Iranian society, some women tend to hide their unwanted pregnancy from others, and this makes it difficult to obtain accurate information on this issue [10]. Previous studies in Iran have reported different prevalence rates for unwanted pregnancy, varying from 13 to 42.3% [11, 12]. Given the fact that the management of unwanted pregnancy requires accurate and up-to-date information, the present study aims to estimate the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women.

Methods

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis aimed at examining the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women, between 2012 and December 2018. Two previous meta-analyses conducted in Iran had reported the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women in 1998–2005 and 2000–2012 [2, 13]. We conducted extensive search in national and international databases, including Scientific Information Database (SID), MagIran, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science for studies published between 2012 and December 2018. Search terms used included ‘Unplanned pregnancy’, ‘Unintended pregnancy’, ‘Unwanted pregnancy’, and ‘Mistimed pregnancy’. In the Iranian databases, the search was conducted using the Persian equivalents of the keywords. The references of the articles were also reviewed to access more related articles.

Study selection and data extraction

All observational studies published in Farsi and English reporting the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in Iran were included in the analysis. In addition, unrelated, qualitative, review, interventional, and duplicated studies were excluded. Search for articles, selection of articles, quality evaluation, and data extraction were performed by two independent researchers, and disagreements between them would be resolved by the head of the research team who is experienced in meta-analysis. The following data were extracted for analysis: name of first author, publication year, setting of the study, language, sample size, and prevalence or frequency of unwanted pregnancy. The two reviewers independently evaluated the methodological quality of the studies using the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE). This checklist has 22 items assessing 6 different aspects of each study, including title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and financial support [14].

Statistical analysis

The Stata software, version 12 was used for data analysis. The variance of unwanted pregnancy prevalence in each article was computed based on the binomial distribution formula by extracting the frequency sample size from published data. Heterogeneity was assessed using the Cochran’s Q test and the I2 statistic, and according to the values obtained, the random effects model was used to combine the studies and estimate the pooled prevalence. The heterogeneities of the studies were divided into; less than 25% (low heterogeneity), 25–75% (moderate heterogeneity) and more than 75% (high heterogeneity) [15]. We also analyzed the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy by region, article’s language, and methodological quality. Funnel plot based on the Egger’s test was used to examine publication bias. To identify heterogeneous causes, univariate meta-regression analyses was performed on the variables of the publication year and sample size.

Results

In the present systematic review and meta-analysis, all the studies conducted in Iran examining the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women were analyzed based on the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement [16]. Two previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses had reported the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in Iran in 1998–2005 and 2000–2012, therefore, we analyzed the articles published between 2012 and December 2018. In the primary search, 403 articles were found using the aforementioned keywords, of which 359 articles were excluded due to nonrelated topics. In the next step, the remaining 44 articles were examined, and 2 observational studies, 4 interventional studies, 2 systematic reviews, and 7 qualitative studies were excluded. One study was excluded because its full text was not available, and another one due to being conducted among women in temporary marriages. Finally, a total of 20 articles were included in the analysis (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1
figure1

Process of selecting and screening articles based on the PRISMA statement

The total sample size was 16,298 (M = 815), and sample size varied from 100 to 5152. 7 articles were in Persian and 13 in English. In terms of methodological quality, 8 studies had a poor quality [17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24] and 12 had an average quality [5, 10,11,12, 25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32]. The description of the selected articles is presented in Table 1.

Table 1 Description of the selected articles

The overall prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women was 26% (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 23–28) (Fig. 2). Subgroup analysis showed that the highest prevalence of unwanted pregnancy was in Iran’s region 2 [Esfahan, Fars, Bushehr, Hormozgan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, and Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari provinces (27% with 95% CI: 19–35)] and region 5 [Razavi Khorasan, North Khorasan, South Khorasan, Kerman, Yazd, and Sistan and Baluchestan provinces (27% with 95% CI: 24–31)].

Fig. 2
figure2

The diamond shown at the bottom of the figure indicates the weight of the squares. The horizontal diameter of the diamond shows the possible range of prevalence outcome. Two vertical lines are shown in the figure. The dotted vertical line which is in line with the diamond vertical axis shows the overall meta-analysis outcome (pooled prevalence). Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy and its 95% confidence interval among Iranian women based on name of first author and year of study using the random effects model. The middle point of each line segment shows the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in each study, and the diamond shows the overall prevalence of unwanted pregnancy

In terms of article’s language, prevalence of unwanted pregnancy was higher in the articles published in English (26% with 95% CI: 29–23) compared to those published in Persian (25% with 95% CI: 20–29). In addition, the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy was 26% (95% CI: 22–30) in the articles with an average methodological quality and 25% (95% CI: 22–29) in the articles with a poor methodological quality. The results of meta-regression analysis indicated no significant association between the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy and year of study (p = 0.937) and sample size (p = 0.234) (Fig. 3). According to the results, publication bias was statistically significant (p = 0.013). (Fig. 4).

Fig. 3
figure3

Meta-regression of the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women based on year of study (a) and sample size (b). Circles indicate the weight of studies

Fig. 4
figure4

Publication bias

Discussion

The present study was aimed at estimating the overall prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women. The results indicated that 26% of pregnancies in Iran were unwanted or unplanned. The prevalence of unwanted pregnancy has been found to be 27.1% in Ethiopia [3], 38.2% in Pakistan [4], and 47.3% in Turkey [33]. The results of a study by Finer showed that about half of pregnancies in the United States were unwanted [34]. Goto et al. (2002) also found a prevalence of 46.2% for unwanted pregnancy among Japanese women, and reported that about 40% of these women had experienced a previous unwanted pregnancy [35]. Unwanted pregnancy often has adverse physical and psychological consequences for both mother and child, and can deprive the mother of career and education opportunities and reduce the child’s wellbeing [2]. The lower prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women compared to that in other countries could be attributed to cultural differences. In other words, unwanted pregnancy is viewed by Iranian women as a stigma, therefore, they are often reluctant to express or record it.

In the two previous meta-analyses conducted in Iran in 1998–2005 and 2000–2012, prevalence rates of 29.7 and 30.6%, respectively, were reported for unwanted pregnancy; these are higher than those found in our meta-analysis [2, 13]. In the present study, the results of meta-regression indicated no significant decreasing trend in the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy between 2012 and 2018. Regarding this finding, it is worth to note that due to population ageing, some policies have been adopted in Iran in recent years to increase birth rate and stimulate population growth, and family planning programs have been discontinued.

Lack of insertion of intrauterine devices (IUD), tubectomy, and vasectomy that are long-acting or permanent methods of birth control with a low failure rate, has led Iranian couples to use other birth control methods with high failure rates. Well-designed training programs are required to promote the use of these methods in Iran. Therefore, the policy to discontinue family planning programs, and the consequent lack of education for couples could be one of the reasons why the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in Iran has remained relatively high in recent years. The removal of the family planning subject from students’ curricula could be another reason. A study on global and regional prevalence of unwanted pregnancy indicated that about 44% of global pregnancies in 2010–14 were unwanted. This study also showed that, compared to 1990–1994, the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy had a reduction by 30% in developed countries and by 16% in developing countries in 2010–14 [36].

Lack of reporting adequate information and lack of inclusion of gray literature in the analysis were two of the study limitations. Gray literature was not included in the meta-analysis because there is no comprehensive or specific database for it. Another limitation was the considerable difference between Iran’s provinces in the number of studies conducted; in some provinces, no study had ever been conducted on this issue, while other provinces had several studies on this topic. Another limitation was that the stratified sampling was not used in the primary selection of studies. These studies were not selected based on the population of provinces and cities, and population was not considered in combining the results of different studies. The weight assigned to each study in the random effects model was only based on sample size and standard deviation of the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, caution should be taken in generalizing the results to the whole country. One of the strengths of the study was that it was focused on a new topic. Therefore the study results can help the health authorities in Iran design healthcare programs and medical interventions aimed at addressing the issue of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women.

Conclusion

About one-fourth of pregnancies in Iran are unwanted, and unwanted pregnancy can have negative consequences for both mother and child. Unwanted pregnancy is a problem that seems not to be limited to a particular time or place, and is intensified by the use of traditional and unreliable birth control methods instead of evidence-based methods, therefore it often leads to illegal abortions. Through providing education for couples who have no plan to have children along with policies aimed at stimulating population growth, an important step can be taken to overcome the issue of unwanted pregnancy in Iran that imposes considerable costs and complications on families, the healthcare system, and the society as a whole, and reduce the mortality rate and maternal complications associated with illegal abortions following unwanted pregnancies.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Abbreviations

CI:

Confidence Interval

IUD:

Intrauterine devices

PRISMA:

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

SID:

Scientific Information Database

STROBE:

Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology

References

  1. 1.

    Ameyaw EK. Prevalence and correlates of unintended pregnancy in Ghana: analysis of 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey. Mater Health Neonatol Perinatol. 2018;4(1):17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Najafi F. Systematic review and meta-analysis of prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in Iran, 1995-2006. J Kerman Univ Med Sci. 2011;16(57):280–7.

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Mohammed F, Musa A, Amano A. Prevalence and determinants of unintended pregnancy among pregnant woman attending ANC at Gelemso general hospital, Oromiya region, East Ethiopia: a facility based cross-sectional study. BMC Womens Health. 2016;16(1):56.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Habib MA, Raynes-Greenow C, Nausheen S, Soofi SB, Sajid M, Bhutta ZA, Black KI. Prevalence and determinants of unintended pregnancies amongst women attending antenatal clinics in Pakistan. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017;17(1):156.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Jarahi L, Zavar A, Neamat SM. Evaluation of the frequency of unwanted pregnancy and its related factors in the pregnant women of Sarakhs city. Iran J Obstet Gynecol Infertil. 2014;17(124):8–14.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Sable MR, Wilkinson DS. Impact of perceived stress, major life events and pregnancy attitudes on low birth weight. Fam Plan Perspect. 2000;32:288–94.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Abedian Z, Dormohamadi M. Investigating the cause of unwanted pregnancies in oral contraceptive pills users referred to health centers of Mashhad, Iran in 2008. Iran J Obstet Gynecol Infertil. 2014;17(94):20–7.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Abajobir AA, Maravilla JC, Alati R, Najman JM. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between unintended pregnancy and perinatal depression. J Affect Disord. 2016;192:56–63.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Finer LB, Zolna MR. Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008–2011. N Engl J Med. 2016;374(9):843–52.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Shahbazin S, Gholami A. Prevalence of unintended pregnancy and its related factors in Kermanshah, Kangavar city (west Iran). J Commun Health Res. 2015;4(1):19–28.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Hassan-Ghasemi A, Abdorrahman C, Hashem H. Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy and its related factors in interruption method users in Gorgan health-care centers in 2010. J Health Syst Res. 2013;9(11):1201–13.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Mehrdad P, Abedini S, Ghanbarnejad A, Karimi S. Prevalence and determinants of unwanted pregnancy in south of Iran, BandarAbbas. Life Sci J. 2014;11(1):117–21.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Moosazadeh M, Nekoei Moghadam M, Emrani Z, Amiresmaili M. Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy in Iran: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Health Plann Manag. 2014;29(3):e277–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Farrugia M, Kirsch A. Application of the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement to publications on endoscopic treatment for vesicoureteral reflux. J Pediatr Urol. 2017;13(3):320–5.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Higgins JP, Thompson SG. Quantifying heterogeneity in a meta-analysis. Stat Med. 2002;21(11):1539–58.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(4):264–9.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Kiani M, Khakshour A, Vakili R, Saeedi M, Mosavi GS. Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy and its related factors in women Mashhad city in 2013. J North Khorasan Univ Med Sci. 2013;5(2):421–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Moeini M, Mokhtari N, Vafaei Z. Unwanted pregnancy after earthquake in bam city, Iran. Pharmacophore. 2018;9(2):80–4.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Omani-Samani R, Ranjbaran M, Mohammadi M, Esmailzadeh A, Sepidarkish M, Maroufizadeh S, Almasi-Hashiani A. Impact of unintended pregnancy on maternal and neonatal outcomes. J Obstet Gynecol India. 2018;69:1–6.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Omolbanin K, Gholamreza S, Hassanzahdeh A, Mozhgan R. The relation between body mass index and unintended pregnancy in women using contraceptive pills. Health Syst Res. 2012;8(1):32–6.

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Sajjadi H, Hoseinpour N, Sani MS, Mahmoodi Z. Health literacy and unintended pregnancy among rural Iranian women. J Res Health. 2016;1(1):1–6.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Valipour M, Nodushan AA. Factors pertaining to unintended pregnancy amongst women visiting healthcare centers of Yazd City. J Commun Health Res. 2015;4(2):128–37.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Zare N, Behroozi B, Jafari P, Moradi F. Unwanted pregnancies among rural women in south of Iran: a model based approach. World Appl Sci J. 2012;20(7):1063–7.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Ostad Norozi N, Zokaei M, Khoramdel Z, Zandevakili F. Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy and its related demographic factors in Kurdistan-2012. J Neyshabur Univ Med Sci. 2014;2(2):44–9.

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Hossein Rashidi B, Malek Afzali H, Haghollahi F, Naghi Jaffarabadi M, Eslami M, Yazdanpanah M, et al. Trend of unwanted pregnancy and induced abortion rates in Tehran: during 1981–2014. J Sch Public Health Inst Public Health Res. 2016;14(2):75–86.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Yazdani F. Comparison of some underlying variables in unplanned and planned pregnancies. J Health Breeze. 2012;1(2):19–26.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Erfani A, Hosseini H, Nojomi M. Unintended pregnancies in Hamedan, Iran: levels and determinants. Women Health. 2018;7:1–6.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Ebrahimzadeh F, Hajizadeh E, Vahabi N, Almasian M, Bakhteyar K. Prediction of unwanted pregnancies using logistic regression, probit regression and discriminant analysis. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2015;29:264.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Ebrahimzadeh F, Azarbar A, Almasian M, Bakhteyar K, Vahabi N. Predicting unwanted pregnancies among multiparous mothers in Khorramabad, Iran. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2016;18

  30. 30.

    Ashraf Ganjouei T, Karim Zadeh Z, Faramarzi Gohar A, Hosseini-Zijoud SS, Hosseini-Zijoud SM. Unwanted pregnancy and related causes in pregnant women in Kerman, 2013. Pajouhan Sci J. 2015;13(4):19–26.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Asadi Sarvestani K, Ahmadi A, Enayat H, Movahed M. Level and factors related to unintended pregnancy with a brief review of new population policies in Iran. Iran J Public Health. 2017;46(7):973.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Zaheri F, Ranaie F, Karimeh R, Shahoi R. Unwanted pregnancy and associated factors among pregnant women who referred to Sanandaj health centers in 2011. Iran J Obstet Gynecol Infertil. 2015;17(132):10–5.

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Erol N, Durusoy R, Ergin I, Döner B, Çiçeklioğlu M. Unintended pregnancy and prenatal care: a study from a maternity hospital in Turkey. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2010;15(4):290–300.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Finer LB, Zolna MR. Unintended pregnancy in the United States: incidence and disparities, 2006. Contraception. 2011;84(5):478–85.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Goto A, Yasumura S, Reich MR, Fukao A. Factors associated with unintended pregnancy in Yamagata, Japan. Soc Sci Med. 2002;54(7):1065–79.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Bearak J, Popinchalk A, Alkema L, Sedgh G. Global, regional, and subregional trends in unintended pregnancy and its outcomes from 1990 to 2014: estimates from a Bayesian hierarchical model. Lancet Glob Health. 2018;6(4):e380–9.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors appreciate all the researchers whose articles were used in the present research.

Consent to publish

Not applicable.

Funding

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in thepublic, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

RGG and KS contributed in design and performing systematic review, FE and MZ checked the data and conduct data analyses, RGG contributed in writing and editing the paper, all the authors read and confirmed the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Reza Ghanei Gheshlagh.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sayehmiri, K., Ebtekar, F., Zarei, M. et al. Prevalence of unwanted pregnancy among Iranian women: an updated meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 19, 491 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2640-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Pregnancy
  • Meta-analysis
  • Iran