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A major new study by Burnet Institute researchers and partners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has identified the key needs and priorities for family planning and reducing unintended pregnancies among pregnant women in PNG.

The study determined the prevalence and predictors of unintended pregnancy and family planning use among nearly 700 pregnant women attending their first antenatal clinic visit in East New Britain Province. The findings have now been published in the open access journal, Scientific Reports.

The researchers identified very high rates of unintended pregnancy and very low use of modern family planning methods. They also identified the urgent need for gender-inclusive, context-specific family planning approaches at individual, family and community levels.

Among key findings:

  • More than half (55 percent) of the women reported their pregnancy as unintended,
  • Few (18 percent) reported ever having used a modern family planning method, and knowledge of the different methods available was low,
  • Single, separated or divorced women had almost tenfold the odds of unintended pregnancy than women who were married or cohabiting with their male partner. However, the great majority of unintended pregnancies were in women with partners
  • Involvement of male partners in antenatal care was associated with reduced unintended pregnancy and greater use of family planning.

“The findings highlight an urgent need for targeted services and strategies to improve family planning knowledge, uptake and access, and male partner involvement, to reduce unintended pregnancies and their complications,” study lead author from the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies team, Dr Liz Peach, said.

“Unintended pregnancies expose women to serious risks during pregnancy and childbirth. It also leads to inadequate birth spacing and pregnancies in high-risk groups, which can have negative consequences for mother and baby.”

Supervising author, Burnet Deputy Director, Professor James Beeson, also notes that: “Personal, male partner and community beliefs, attitudes and norms, including objections to the use of family planning and fear of side effects were reported by women as factors that discourage seeking and using family planning.”

“Importantly, male partner involvement in antenatal care was strongly associated with reduced unintended pregnancy and higher use of modern family planning, highlighting the potential benefits of including men in all public health strategies, including tailored information broadcast on radio and television, to increase uptake, accessibility and demand for family planning.”

The research was conducted as part of the collaborative Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Program, which includes the East New Britain Provincial Health Authority and specific health centres in East New Britain, PNG Institute of Medical Research, University of PNG, and the Kirby Institute.

Find out more about the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program and how you can support our lifesaving research.