Reducing Unintended Pregnancy in Nigeria

Although fertility rates are declining as modernization is increasing, Nigeria is still one of the poorest nations in the world and has the largest population in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many women are experiencing unwanted and mistimed pregnancies, with consequences ranging from interruption of schooling to health risks and economic hardship, all of which hinder efforts to improve their socioeconomic status. By educating and empowering both married and sexually active unmarried women to make informed and responsible decisions about contraceptive use and their desired fertility, the Nigerian government can improve both the health and the economic productivity of its citizens

The time is now. Will you stand up for reproductive health and rights?

Key Points

Key Points

• There is wide regional variation in the timing of marriage among Nigerian women. More than nine in 10 women aged 20–24 in the North East and North West had married by age 20, compared with half to three-fourths of women in the three southern regions.

• Premarital sexual activity is most common among more educated women, who tend to postpone marriage the longest. In the southern regions, where educational levels are highest and the smallest proportion of young women are married, 41–69% of women aged 20–24 had had premarital intercourse< by age 20. This compares
with only 6–14% in the North West and North East, where educational levels are lowest and marriage before 20 is most common.

• Contraceptive use is low in Nigeria, particularly among married women. Only 13% of married women aged 15–49 use any
method, traditional or modern.
Use is much higher among sexually
active unmarried women (47%).

• There is considerable regional variation in contraceptive use, with 66% of sexually active unmarried women using any method in the South West, compared with only 13% in the North East.

• Six in 10 married women aged 15–49 want to space or limit childbearing, and 14% of all births are either mistimed or unwanted. • Thirty-two percent of married women and 54% of sexually active need for family planning.

• Many women either have never heard of any contraceptive method or do not know where to obtain contraceptives. Additionally, four in 10 married women and nearly five in 10 married men do not< approve of contraceptive use. • Having or performing an abortion is illegal in Nigeria except to save a woman’s life. Yet the estimated abortion rate in 1996 was 25 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44, translating to about 610,000 abortions performed in that year.

• Efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancy
and unsafe abortion in
Nigeria require adequate provision
of family planning services, as
well as public education to dispel
rumors and misperceptions about
the health consequences and
effectiveness of modern methods.
Men should be encouraged to support
their partner’s desire to have
fewer children.

1. United Nations Development
Programme, Human Population
Report, New York: Oxford
University Press, 2004.
2. Ibid.
3. United Nations Population
Division, Fertility Transition in
Nigeria: Trends and Prospects,
accessed Mar. 10, 2005.
4. Ibid.
5. National Population Commission
(NPC), Federal Republic of
Nigeria, and ORC Macro, Nigeria
Demographic and Health Survey
2003, Calverton, MD, USA: NPC
and ORC Macro, 2004.
6. Ibid.
7. Isiugo-Abanihe UC, Male Role
and Responsibility in Fertility and
Reproductive Health in Nigeria,
Ibadan and Lagos, Nigeria: Centre
for Development and Population
Activities and Ababa Press, 2003.
8. Bongaarts J and Bruce J, The
cause of unmet need for contraception
and the social content of
services, Studies in Family
Planning, 1995, 26(2):57–75.
9. Federal Office of Statistics,
Nigeria, and IRD/Macro
International, Nigeria Demographic
and Health Survey 1990,
Columbia, MD, USA: IRD, 1992.
10. Okonofua F et al., Unwanted
pregnancy and induced abortion in
Nigeria, Studies in Family
Planning, 1999, 30(1):67–77.
11. The Alan Guttmacher Institute
(AGI), Into a New World: Young
Women’s Sexual and Reproductive
Lives, New York: AGI, 1998.
12. Temin MJ et al., Perceptions of
sexual behavior and knowledge
about sexually transmitted diseases
among adolescents in Benin
City, Nigeria, International Family
Planning Perspectives, 1999,
25(4):186–190 & 195.
13. World Health Organization
(WHO), Maternal Mortality in
2000: Estimates Developed by
Geneva: WHO, 2004, Annex Table
F, p. 21.
14. Amazigo U et al., Sexual activity
and contraceptive knowledge
and use among in-school adolescents
in Nigeria, International
Family Planning Perspectives,
1997, 23(1):28–33.
15. Renne E, Perceptions of population
policy, development, and
family planning programs in northern
Nigeria, Studies in Family
Planning, 1996, 27(3):127–136.
16. Chesa C, Obasanjo urges
Nigerians to raise small families,
Daily Independent (Ikeja, Nigeria),
Feb. 23, 2005, <http://www.
=13158>, accessed Mar. 10, 2005.
Box References
1. Henshaw S et al., The incidence
of induced abortion in Nigeria,
International Family Planning
Perspectives, 1998, 24(4):156–164.
2. Ibid.
3. Makinwa-Adebusoye P, Singh S
and Audam S, Nigerian health
professionals’ perceptions about
abortion practice, International
Family Planning Perspectives,
1997, 23(4):155–161.
4. World Health Organization
(WHO), Maternal Mortality in
2000: Estimates Developed by
Geneva: WHO, 2004, Annex
Table F, p. 21.