Male experiences of unintended pregnancy: characteristics and prevalence

Hum Reprod. 2015 Jan;30(1):186-96. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu259. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


Study question: What are the characteristics and circumstances of pregnancies men report as unintended in France?

Summary answer: Pregnancies reported as unintended were most prevalent among young men with insecure financial situations, less stable relationships and inconsistent use of contraception or false assumptions about their partner's use of contraception.

What is known already: Efforts to involve men in family planning have increased over the last decade; however, little is known about factors associated with men's pregnancy intentions and associated contraceptive behaviours.

Study design, size, duration: The data presented in this study were drawn from the nationally representative FECOND study, a population-based survey conducted in France in 2010. The sample comprised 8675 individuals (3373 men), aged 15-49 years, who responded to a telephone interview about socio-demographics and topics related to sexual and reproductive health. The total refusal rate was 20%.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: This study included 2997 men, of whom 664 reported 893 recent pregnancies (in the 5 years preceding the survey). Multivariate Poisson's regression with population-averaged marginal effects was applied to assess the individual and contextual factors associated with men's intentions for recent pregnancies. The contraceptive circumstances leading to the unintended pregnancies were also assessed.

Main results and the role of chance: Of all heterosexually active men, 5% reported they had experienced an unintended pregnancy with a partner in the last 5 years. A total of 20% of recent pregnancies reported by men were qualified to be unintended, of which 45% ended in induced abortion. Of pregnancies following a previous unintended pregnancy, 68% were themselves unintended. Among all heterosexually active men, recent experience of an unintended pregnancy was related to age, mother's education, age at first sex, parity, contraceptive method history, lifetime number of female partners and the relationship situation at the time of survey. Recent unintended pregnancies were also related to pregnancy order and to the financial and professional situation at the time of conception. The majority of unintended pregnancies occurred when men or their partners were using contraceptives; 58% of contraceptive users considered that the pregnancy was due to inconsistent use and 39% considered that it resulted from method failure. Half of the non-users who reported an unintended pregnancy thought that their partner was using a contraceptive method. The relative risk of non-use of a contraceptive method during the month of conception of a recent unintended pregnancy was higher among those without a high school degree (IRR = 2.9, CI 1.6, 5.2) and higher among men for whom the pregnancy interfered with education (IRR = 1.8, CI 1.0, 3.1) or work (IRR = 1.9, CI 1.1, 3.6).

Limitations, reasons for caution: From the perspective of men, the unintended pregnancy rates may be underestimated due to a combination of underreporting of abortion and post-rationalization of birth intentions. Our use of a dichotomous measure of unintended pregnancy is unlikely to fully capture the multidimensional construct of pregnancy intentions.

Wider implication of the findings: These results call for gender-inclusive family planning programmes, which fully engage men as active participants in their own rights.

Study funding/competing interests: The FECOND study was supported by a grant from the French Ministry of Health, a grant from the French National Agency of Research (#ANR-08-BLAN-0286-01; PIs N.B., C.M.), and funding from National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and the National Institute for Demographic Research (INED). None of the authors have competing interests.

Keywords: Europe; family planning; gender; men; pregnancy intention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors