Unplanned pregnancy and emergency contraception in Australia: unsolved dilemmas

Danielle Mazza, Christopher Harrison, Angela Taft, Helena Britt, Melissa Hobbs, Kay Stewart, Safeera Yasmeen Hussainy, Bianca Brijnath

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterOther

3 Citations (Scopus)


There is an unexplained paradox concerning unplanned pregnancy in Australia: despite high rates of contraceptive use, especially of the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), the rate of unwanted pregnancies resulting in terminations remains highest in women younger than 25 years.1 This phenomenon exists even though around 90 of young Australian women use contraception during their first sexual encounter (which occurs between 16 and 18 years of age for about 56 of women),2,3 with many even using `double protection? (combining the COCP and condoms).4 In the current policy context, this paradox is perplexing. The Australian Government s National Women s Health Policy 2010 prioritises women s sexual and reproductive health within a broader health equity framework and aims to provide low to no cost, easily accessible, comprehensive support services to all women.5 The policy emphasises access to information and services on topics such as sexual health, abortion, reproductive health and maternal health.5 Moreover, since 2004, the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) has been available to women for over-the-counter purchase. The health equity policy context, availability of the ECP over-the-counter, and high rates of contraceptive use (>70 of Australian women of child-bearing age6), should result in lower rates of unplanned pregnancies for Australian women but this has not occurred. Similar anomalies have been observed across other high-income countries such as the United Kingdom (UK)7 and the United States (US).8 There are gaps between what is available, what is used, and what the health-related outcomes are when it comes to emergency contraception and unplanned pregnancies. We need to better understand these paradoxes in order to reduce the rates of unplanned pregnancy and abortion and to ensure that women have improved ability to control and plan their reproductive lives. In this paper, we propose three areas related to the emergency contraception-unplanned pre
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110 - 111
Number of pages2
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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