A higher percentage of older women had babies when they hadn’t planned to, according to the 2016 Unwanted Fertility report released by Statistics SA on Monday.
The report found that 54% of women born between 1965 and 1969 became pregnant when they did not plan to have any more children. This was an increase from 13.2% in the 1998 survey.
“Of all the births that women aged 15 to 49 years experienced in the last five years before the 1998 survey, about 17% happened when they were no longer planning to have any more children. Such births increased to approximately 20% in the 2016 survey,” Stats SA said.
“Unwanted fertility” refers to a pregnancy that happens when a woman no longer wants children.
In both surveys, these births increased as the women got older.
The provinces with the highest percentage of births when women weren’t planning on having more children, was the Eastern Cape with 26.4%, and KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga with 25,1%.
These three provinces and North West also had higher percentages of these births in 1998.
“The highest increase in births when women did not plan to have any more births was in the Northern Cape and Western Cape where the births increased from 6.6% to 16% and 11.7% to 20.9% from 1998 to 2016 respectively,” Stats SA said.
The 2016 report further revealed that births by women who did not plan to have any more children represented 25.8% of the poorest households and 13.1% of the richest households.
In both the 1998 and 2016 surveys, the percentage of births when women were no longer planning to have children varied according to the level of the women’s education.
“In 2016, such births to mothers with tertiary education (11.4%) were four times lower compared to mothers with no education (46.3%). In addition, these births to mothers with no education almost doubled from 24.8% in 1998 to 46.3% in 2016,” Stats SA said.
The Unwanted Fertility report was based on the 1998 and 2016 South African Demographic and Health Survey and sought to establish the level of unwanted pregnancies in the context of fertility decline in the country.
“In the survey, women were asked about the planning status of each birth in the preceding five years, including current pregnancies at the time of the survey,” Stats SA said.
“For example a woman is asked: ‘At the time you became pregnant with [name], did you want to become pregnant then, did you want to wait until later or did you want no more children at all?’ A pregnancy that happened when a woman wanted no more children is classified as unwanted.”