The percentage of unplanned pregnancies among the nation’s married women was considerably higher than that in the West, signaling a lack of awareness about family planning, a recent study said.
The study on unplanned pregnancies and related factors by the Bureau of Health Promotion found that of the survey’s 7,000 respondents, 63 percent had unplanned pregnancies, much higher than the rate of roughly 50 percent in Europe and the US.
“This shows that Taiwanese have adopted an attitude of letting nature take its course when it comes to having children, meaning pregnancies are often ‘happy surprises,’” the study said.
However, there are consequence to this attitude, the bureau said, because based on studies from other countries, women who get pregnant without planning are more prone to give birth to premature babies, or babies with weight or nutrition problems.
The lack of childbirth planning also contributes to many abortions, the study found.
Twenty percent of first-time, unplanned pregnancies ended in abortions, and that figure increased to 41.5 percent when couples had a fourth unplanned pregnancy.
These numbers compared with an abortion rate of 3.3 percent for first-time planned pregnancies and 5.8 percent when couples planned to have a fourth child, the study showed.
It added that the main reasons cited for having an abortion was not wanting another baby (41.4 percent), problems with the fetus (19.1 percent) and worries about the economic burden of having a child (16.3 percent).
The study also found that women with lower education, who were young, who feel their economic situation is weak or who think marriage is not important, have higher rates of unplanned pregnancies.
“The mother’s educational background plays a role,” said Hung Pai-hsun (洪百薰), director of the bureau’s population health research center, with the percentage of unplanned pregnancies among women who did not finish high school tending to be higher than among women who have a college education or better.
The bureau said based on these findings, it would now target married women with its family planning awareness campaign, rather than primarily minors or unmarried women, as was the case in the past.
The study was based on observations of 2,603 women aged between 20 and 49, who were part of a 2008 census on families and fertility. The study’s results were published in the latest edition of the Taiwan Journal of Public Health this month.