The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on contraceptive methods, abortion, and unintended pregnancy: a cross-sectional study


Background and Aim

By creating an international emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to compromised reproductive health care, including family planning services, and thus increased unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. This study was conducted to compare methods of contraception, abortion, and unintended pregnancies in those served by the health centers of Babol city in Iran, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.


A cross-sectional study was conducted including 425 participants registered to the health centers of Babol city, Mazandaran province, Iran. Using a multi-stage method, 6 urban health centers and 10 rural centers were selected for inclusion. Proportional allocation method was used for sampling those who met the inclusion criteria. A questionnaire was used to collect data in relation to individual characteristics and reproductive behaviors via 6 questions focused upon methods and preparation of contraception, number and type of abortions, and number and causes of unintended pregnancy from July to November 2021. The data were analyzed using SPSS software version 26. Significance level was considered to be p < 0.05 in all tests.


Most participants aged between 20 and 29 years old had a diploma level of education, were housewives and lived in the city. Prior to the pandemic, 32.0% used modern contraceptive methods and 31.6% used these during the pandemic. No change in the combination of contraceptive methods used was observed between these two periods. Approximately two-thirds used the withdrawal method in both periods. The majority of participants in both periods purchased their contraceptives from a pharmacy. Unintended pregnancy increased from 20.4% prior to the pandemic to 25.4% during the pandemic. Abortions increased from 19.1% prior to the pandemic to 20.9% during the pandemic, although these findings were not found to be statistically significant. Contraceptive methods had a statistically significant relationship with age, education, spouse’s education, spouse’s occupation, and place of residence. The number of unintended pregnancies had a significant relationship with age, the educational level of both participants and their spouses and socio-economic status, and the number of abortions had a statistically significant relationship with the age and education level of the spouse (p > 0.05).


Despite there being no change in contraceptive methods compared to the pre-pandemic period, an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and illegal abortions was observed. This may be indicative of an unmet need for family planning services during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Contraceptive methods, Unintended pregnancy, Abortion, COVID-19 pandemic, Reproductive behaviors

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