The perpetuating cycle of unplanned pregnancy: underlying causes and implications in Eswatini

Cult Health Sex. 2021 Dec;23(12):1656-1671. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2020.1791359. Epub 2020 Jul 29.


Unplanned pregnancies constitute a major health problem globally carrying negative social, economic and health consequences for individuals and families. In this study, we explored the underlying causes and implications of this phenomenon in Eswatini, a country with high rates of unplanned pregnancy. Three focus group discussions were conducted in January 2018 with female health workers called mentor mothers, chosen because they offer a twofold perspective, being both Swati women and health workers in socially and economically disadvantaged settings. Using inductive thematic analysis, we identified five sub-themes and an overarching theme called 'the perpetuating cycle of unplanned pregnancy' in the data. A social-ecological model was used to frame the results, describing how factors at the individual, relationship, societal and community levels interact to influence unplanned pregnancy. In this setting, factors such as perceived low self-esteem as well as poor conditions in the community drove young women to engage in transactional relationships characterised by abuse, gender inequality and unprotected sex, resulting in unplanned pregnancy. These pregnancies led to neglected and abandoned children growing up to become vulnerable, young adults at risk of becoming pregnant unintendedly, thus creating an iterative cycle of unplanned childbearing.

Keywords: Eswatini; Unintended pregnancy; gender-based violence; unplanned pregnancy; unwanted pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Eswatini
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned*
  • Unsafe Sex*
  • Young Adult