SINGAPORE: A new study has found that the number of women with unplanned pregnancies has been on the rise in recent years, and more than 10% of these women have records of multiple referrals for abortion.

SingHealth Polyclinics conducted a study on unwanted pregnancies in Singapore, collecting and analyzing data from its polyclinics in Bedok, Redhill, Outram, Marine Parade, Pasir Ris, Punggol, Sengkang and Tampines. The survey subjects were 9,794 women aged 15 to 54 who visited these eight polyclinics from July 2017 to June 2020.

The survey revealed that one in ten pregnant women sought referrals from obstetrician-gynaecologists to manage unplanned pregnancies. Of particular concern, over 10 per cent of these women had a history of multiple abortion referrals within the past three years.

The trend over the three years indicated a consistent rise in the number of women seeking referrals for abortion due to unintended pregnancies. The figures for July 2019 to June 2020 showed increases of 67.5%, 34.4%, and 119% among Chinese, Malay, and Indian women, respectively, compared to the same period in 2017-2018.

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The majority of women seeking medical referrals were found to be single, under 20 or over 40 years old, holders of Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) cards or of Indian descent.

Notably, most participants in the survey had no recorded use of contraceptive methods, such as oral contraceptive pills, injectables, or intrauterine devices.

The study acknowledged the potential for respondents seeking private medical services and using undisclosed contraceptive measures. It also highlighted the likelihood of partners employing barrier contraceptive methods, such as condoms, which may not be reflected in polyclinic records.

Researchers further pointed out the deportation of approximately 100 foreign domestic helpers annually due to pregnancies, although the actual number may be higher due to undisclosed private abortions.

In response to these findings, SingHealth Polyclinics plans to interview women with unintended pregnancies to gain insights into their challenges and perspectives. The objective is to develop people-centred initiatives, enhance family planning education, and improve women’s health. The emphasis is on encouraging women to discuss family fertility plans with their family doctors.

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Recognizing the sensitivity of such discussions, the research team advocates for a more effective and private consultation environment.

To bolster contraceptive services, SingHealth Group Polyclinics is also exploring telemedicine research to facilitate wider public access to support for contraception and family planning in the future.