Unintended Pregnancies, Unsafe Abortion and Maternal Mortality in Kenya


  • November 2023
  • Policy brief

Unintended pregnancy significantly contributes to unsafe abortion in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where abortions are legally restricted. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), the prevalence of unintended pregnancy rose from 34% in 2014 to 41.9% in 2020 (PMA, 2020). Unintended pregnancies disrupt the lives of all women of reproductive age, regardless of whether they are married or not. However, the humiliation or dishonor associated with unintended pregnancies disproportionately affects teenage girls and young women, and as such, vast numbers of them resort to unsafe abortion to evade shame and exclusion. While these social and other economic factors guide women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancy, the legal restrictions of abortion in Kenya and abortion stigma often direct them towards unsafe procedures. Up to 14% of pregnancies end in unsafe abortion in Kenya (Mumah et al., 2014), resulting in about 2600 deaths annually. Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio (362 per 100,000) is highest among women of peak reproductive age (25–39), and in this group, up to 17% of deaths and severe morbidities may be associated with induced abortion.