Half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended – and it’s time for action
The decision of when – and whether – to start a family is one of the most important decisions a woman can make with critical consequences for her life and that of her family, community and economy. But for millions of women and girls worldwide – especially women from poor economic backgrounds and women of colour – this life-altering decision is at times no choice at all.
The predictable result is that nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide today are unintended – a major global health crisis. The reasons are complex and varied, but one of the most critical aspects is the need to increase access to contraceptive options. An estimated 162.9 million women worldwide still have an unmet need for contraception.
This issue came into even sharper focus during the pandemic when family planning services were disrupted for 12 million women around the world, leading to an estimated 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.
For many women and girls, their UIP create extraordinary challenges and hardships. Girls and women aged 15 to 24 years have the highest unmet need for contraception. UIP can undermine educational opportunities, diminish employment prospects and present life-threatening health complications.
The situation calls for urgent action in terms of expanding access to family planning information and options. Women’s health and gender equity are critical global priorities, as set forth in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By investing in the health of women and helping them take control over their reproductive choices, there is an opportunity to advance the health of all of society.
Her promise is our purpose
Organon is a global healthcare company established just over one year ago with a clear purpose: to enable the almost 4 billion women and girls in this world to achieve their promise. We are seeking to be the world’s leading women’s health company and are working to find new solutions to address the significant unmet medical needs women face through a variety of programmes and initiatives.
One of our key initiatives is to prevent 120 million UIP by 2030 in the least developed countries – an ambitious goal that we are undertaking alongside public and private collaborators. These partnerships are critical because no one company can tackle UIP alone.
Below are some of the actions that we believe deserve priority attention, where Organon is playing a role, and where partnerships can accelerate progress towards reducing the rate of UIP. All are focused on creating a journey that is not only for her, but with her – and ensuring girls and women have a voice in their reproductive journey.
Reimagine reproductive health education. Education plays an integral role in reproductive health. An estimated 33 million UIP are a result of contraceptive failure or incorrect use. Changing this outcome requires a sea change in how we help people to understand not only their contraceptive options, but also the proper use of their chosen method. At Organon, we are especially committed to advancing understanding of modern contraception, including long-acting reversible methods, that have the highest rate of success in preventing unplanned pregnancies. We believe over time we can help with the education process and be a resource for women and healthcare professionals looking for science-based information.
Meet youth where they are. Globally, girls and adolescents are the most seriously impacted when it comes to UIP. Young people are our future leaders, and we are leaving too many behind. Reducing UIP among youth requires meeting them where they are with the people, organisations and channels that resonate most. Women’s health – in particular reproductive health – is still full of stigma, too often in the shadows and often deprioritised. We must tackle this head on as part of our work by normalising conversations about women’s health topics and battling a tangle of taboos and stigma around gynaecological and sexual health.
Focus on the most vulnerable. UIP rates are highest among low-income women, young women and women of colour. Expanding access to family planning among such groups is critical to reaching the SDGs. A variety of cross-sector initiatives are needed to move the needle on access. For its role, Organon operates the Her Promise Access Initiative, part of a multi-agency global effort to expand information and contraception availability to the world’s lowest-income countries. Significant progress has already been achieved since the programme’s inception and we are committed to helping millions more women take control of their own fertility and have children only if and when they feel ready to do so.
Raising her voice. Finally, we need more advocates for women and their health care, including those who are involved in decision-making and policy design. Women hold around 70% of jobs in the health sector but only 25% of senior and decision-making roles. This means, in the near term, we need to listen far more intently for her voice – because we can only address women’s unmet health needs when we hear her. Simultaneously, we can all work to advance women to leadership positions, so that they can advocate for other women and their reproductive health needs.
Partner on a promise for Her
The impact of UIP ripples through society and calls for urgent action. Especially when we know that the future of women and girls could be so much brighter.
It’s critical that public officials recognise the severity of the crisis of UIP – and the cost-effective solutions available. Globally, it is estimated that every $1 spent on family planning yields an estimated $120 in health and economic benefits.
The investment in women benefits all society and has a multiplier effect. When women have access to contraceptives and control over the timing of their pregnancy, they are more likely to achieve higher levels of education, seek more employment opportunities, and have children that are healthier and more educated.
The bottom line is that healthy women are the backbone of a thriving, stable and resilient society. And when we invest in her health, her equity and, especially, access to her options, we all benefit from the power of her promise. Join us on the journey at organon.com.