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Trends in and predictors of pregnancy termination among 15-24 year-old women in Nigeria: A multi-level analysis of demographic and health surveys 2003-2018

Onukwugha, Franklin I.; Magadi, Monica A.; Sarki, Ahmed M.; Smith, Lesley


Ahmed M. Sarki

Lesley Smith


© 2020 The Author(s). Background: Three-quarters of pregnancy terminations in Africa are carried out in unsafe conditions. Unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality among 15-24 year-old women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Greater understanding of the wider determinants of pregnancy termination in 15-24 year-olds could inform the design and development of interventions to mitigate the harm. Previous research has described the trends in and factors associated with termination of pregnancy for women of reproductive age in Nigeria. However, the wider determinants of pregnancy termination have not been ascertained, and data for all women have been aggregated which may obscure differences by age groups. Therefore, we examined the trends in and individual and contextual-level predictors of pregnancy termination among 15-24 year-old women in Nigeria. Methods: We analysed data from the 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018 Nigerian Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHS) comprising 45,793 women aged 15-24 years. Trends in pregnancy termination across the four survey datasets were examined using bivariate analysis. Individual and contextual predictors of pregnancy termination were analysed using a three-level binary logistic regression analysis and are reported as adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: Trends in pregnancy termination declined from 5.8% in 2003 to 4.2% in 2013 then reversed to 4.9% in 2018. The declining trend was greater for 15-24 year-old women with higher socioeconomic status. Around 17% of the total variation in pregnancy termination was attributable to community factors, and 7% to state-level factors. Of all contextual variables considered, only contraceptive prevalence (proxy for reproductive health service access by young women) at community level was significant. Living in communities with higher contraceptive prevalence increased odds of termination compared with communities with lower contraceptive prevalence (aOR = 4.2; 95% CI 2.7-6.6). At the individual-level, sexual activity before age 15 increased odds of termination (aOR = 2.3; 95% CI 1.9-2.8) compared with women who initiated sexual activity at age 18 years or older, and married women had increased odds compared with never married women (aOR = 3.0; 95% CI 2.5-3.7). Conclusion: Our findings highlight the importance of disaggregating data for women across the reproductive lifecourse, and indicates where tailored interventions could be targeted to address factors associated with pregnancy termination among young women in Nigeria.


Onukwugha, F. I., Magadi, M. A., Sarki, A. M., & Smith, L. (2020). Trends in and predictors of pregnancy termination among 15-24 year-old women in Nigeria: A multi-level analysis of demographic and health surveys 2003-2018. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 20(1),

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Aug 11, 2020
Online Publication Date Sep 22, 2020
Publication Date 2020-12
Deposit Date Feb 4, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 5, 2021
Journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Print ISSN 1471-2393
Electronic ISSN 1471-2393
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 1
Article Number 550
Keywords Maternal health; Adolescence; Health inequalities; Sustainable development goals; Prevalence; Low middle income countries
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Additional Information Received: 18 May 2020; Accepted: 11 August 2020; First Online: 22 September 2020; : The study is based on secondary analysis of already anonymised Nigeria Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHS) data available in the public domain, so ethics approval was not required. Survey respondents voluntarily provided responses to the question “Ever terminated a pregnancy”. During data collection the survey protocol was reviewed and approved by the National Health Research Ethics Committee of Nigeria (NHREC) and the ICF Institutional Review Board (NPC and ICF, 2019).Relevant consents were obtained on behalf of the participants under 16 years before the data collection process. Although for non-therapeutic research (Research that does not involve physical contact through examination, treatment, or collection of bodily samples) in Nigeria, persons aged 13 years and above and emancipated minors can consent for themselves without parental consent in research.; : Not applicable.; : The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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© The Author(s). 2020. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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