Reducing the Stigma of Unplanned Pregnancy Starts with a Conversation

An unplanned pregnancy can translate into a multitude of health factors and risks for both the mother and the baby.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how quickly science can move when we collectively dedicate time and resources towards addressing an issue, it reminds me as an OBGYN with a true focus on women’s health that there is a lot of opportunity for us to adapt to the evolving healthcare needs of women today, especially in a post-pandemic environment.

On the subject of unplanned pregnancy, as healthcare professionals, as partners, as potential future moms or dads, we have to come together as a worldwide community to help reduce the rates. This begins with a conversation.

But let’s first start with the facts. Unplanned pregnancy remains a significant public health issue, with nearly half of pregnancies being unplanned in the U.S. alone, according to data from 2011. Globally, more than 1 billion women have a need for family planning, but for 270 million of them, that need for modern methods is unmet. In my view, we have to do something to ensure she has the resources she needs to help make informed decisions with her HCP.

Ripple Effect of Unplanned Pregnancy

The average U.S. woman spends about 30 years avoiding pregnancy, which is three-fourths of her reproductive life. An unplanned pregnancy can translate into a multitude of health factors and risks for both the mother and the baby, regardless of her socioeconomic background. For example, prenatal care may be delayed, and one study estimated that direct medical cost of unplanned pregnancy in the U.S. was more than $4.6 billion annually. This does not account for the personal financial costs associated with unplanned pregnancy, which may be even more challenging during the current pandemic, when many women may have lost jobs or faced new financial pressures.

Help Fuel the Conversation and Meet Her Where She Is

While these numbers surprise me even as an OBGYN, we are in a unique position to help change those numbers. This starts by having an open, honest conversation with our patients. We can be that objective source; we can ask the questions: “what are your family planning goals?,” “what is your plan?” We can listen to her needs and customize a plan that’s right for her. It’s important that healthcare providers and women work together to discuss what options are best for her.

I’ve appreciated my time at Organon, as we hope to provide education and access to information for patients, all while helping to listen to the needs of women. By increasing these pivotal conversations, increasing access to family planning options, and educating women about their choices, we can help them make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health to help reduce the rates of unplanned pregnancy. Educating male partners about pregnancy planning can also help limit unplanned pregnancies, reduce the stigma associated with it, and encourage more open conversations.

Share your Perspective

As physicians on the front lines of women’s health, and as an industry committed to doing better for every woman everywhere, let's come together to spark a dialogue that fuels much-needed attention to this global public health issue. Let’s talk about unplanned pregnancy and change the conversation from one of stigma to one of impact. I invite you to join healthcare providers and women from across the globe to share your perspective on how to help reduce unplanned pregnancies at HereforHerHealth.com.

Dr. Edio Zampaglione is the Head of Global Medical Affairs and Outcomes Research at Organon, a global healthcare company formed in 2021 through a spinoff from Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, to focus on improving the health of women throughout their lives. He served as a pharmacist and a practicing OBGYN before starting a career in the pharmaceutical industry in 2001. Throughout his career in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Zampaglione has always focused on helping improve access and a broader understanding of women’s health.