Introduction: Although there has been a great deal of concern about the consequences of unintended pregnancies on child health, there has been little documented evidence across specific outcomes to inform programs and policies. This paper highlights the association between unintended pregnancy, and its health and developmental consequences to children.
Methods: Published and grey evidence available adverse effects of unintended pregnancy on children were extracted electronically using search engines: PubMed, EMBASE and Google Scholar for the period January 1981 through January 2017. The PRISMA checklist was used and qualities of eligible studies were assessed for method validity and result interpretation. Effect-size odds ratioswere calculated from extracted data.
Results: Of the 107 studies identified after removal of duplications, 29 studies with a quality score ranging from 3 to 6 (Mean = 5.65; SD±0.65) were included. Pattern of child rearing, development and health were found to differ for children classified to be breads of an unintended pregnancy. However, many of the available studies appear to have methodological limitations such as recall bias and brief period of follow-ups limiting causal inferences and to determine a temporal sequence. The findings were found to be inconsistent across studies.
Conclusion: Studies provide evidence relating to adverse health outcomes for children of unintended births. The existing knowledge is limited by weak research methodologies and a paucity of studies addressing subsequent health and developmental effects beyond the early childhood period. There is a need for more multi-wave longitudinal studies to assess child health and developmental trajectories associated with unintended pregnancies. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2017;31 (3):138-154]
Key words: Unplanned pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, child development, child health consequence