Unplanned pregnancy among female students at universities in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Given Mutinta


Unplanned pregnancy has adverse effects including unsafe and illegal abortions causing maternal morbidity and mortality. Despite the adverse impact of unplanned pregnancy on women’s personal life, their families, and society, there is a dearth of knowledge on unplanned pregnancy in institutions of higher education and training in South Africa. As a result, the objective of this study was to assess unplanned pregnancy and underlying factors among unmarried female students in universities in Eastern Cape. This was a cross-sectional survey of 1269 unmarried female students from universities in Eastern Cape selected using multistage cluster sampling. The study found that the prevalence of unplanned pregnancy was 12.31%, Health Science student (AOR: 0.41, 95% CI [0.17, 0.99], p < 0.001) were less likely to experience unplanned pregnancy. Being financially supported by a family (AOR: 0.17, 95% CI: [0.07, 0.43], p< 0.001) and being aged less than or equal to 18 years during the first sexual intercourse (AOR: 6.32, 95% CI: [2.57, 15.54], p < 0.001) were associated with unplanned pregnancy. Rural residence (AOR=3.93; 95% CI: (1.21, 12.84), p < 0.001), not using contraceptives (AOR=10.63; 95%CI: 5.29, 21.37, p < 0.001) and having divorced parents (AOR=1.99; 95%CI: 1.14, 3.94), p < 0.001) were associated with unplanned pregnancy compared to their counterparts, respectively. The prevalence of unplanned pregnancy is high among unmarried female students in universities in Eastern Cape. Unplanned pregnancy was influenced by age at first sexual intercourse, non-use of contraceptives, divorced parents, the field of study, and the source of financial support. Universities and stakeholders should work together to support reproductive health programmes to prevent unplanned pregnancy. (Afr J Reprod Health 2022; 26[7]: 29-37).

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