Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 323–331 | Cite as

Risk factors for unplanned pregnancy in women with mental illness living in a developing country

  • Elsa du ToitEmail author
  • Esme Jordaan
  • Dana Niehaus
  • Liezl Koen
  • Jukka Leppanen
Original Article


Pregnant women in general are at an increased risk of experiencing symptoms of mental illness, and those living in a developing country are even more vulnerable. Research points towards a causal relationship between unplanned pregnancy and perinatal mental illness and suggests that pregnancy planning can aid in reducing the negative impact of mental illness on a woman, her unborn baby, and the rest of the family. In this quantitative, descriptive study, we investigated both socio-demographic factors and variables relating to mental illness itself that may place women at an increased risk of experiencing unplanned pregnancy. Data was gathered at two maternal mental health clinics in Cape Town by means of semi-structured interviews. Univariate analyses of the data revealed five independent key risk factors for unplanned pregnancy: lower levels of education, unmarried status, belonging to the Colored ethnic population, substance use, and having a history of two or more suicide attempts. Some of these factors overlap with findings of similar studies, but others are unique to the specific population (women with mental illness within a developing country). Screening of women based on these risk predictors may pave the way for early interventions and reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancy and the negative consequences thereof in the South African population.


South Africa Unplanned pregnancy Mental illness 


Compliance with ethical standards

This study was approved by the instructional ethics review committee of the University of Stellenbosch. All authors contributed to the paper in accordance to guidelines.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elsa du Toit
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Esme Jordaan
    • 3
  • Dana Niehaus
    • 1
  • Liezl Koen
    • 1
  • Jukka Leppanen
    • 4
  1. 1.Maternal Mental Health Clinic, Stikland Hospital/Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health SciencesStellenbosch UniversityCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Sophia Maternal Mental Health CarePanorama Psychiatric CentreCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council, Bellville and the Statistics and Population Studies DepartmentUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Tampere Center for Child Health ResearchUniversity of Tampere School of MedicineTampereFinland

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