Review Article

Scoping review of the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 on unplanned pregnancy

Carmen S. Christian, Laura Rossouw
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 14, No 1 | a3601 | DOI: | © 2022 Carmen S. Christian, Laura Rossouw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 April 2022 | Published: 15 December 2022

About the author(s)

Carmen S. Christian, Department of Economics, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa
Laura Rossouw, School of Economics and Finance, Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Increased pressure on the healthcare system because of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) along with national lockdown policies had consequences on the sexual and reproductive health of women. While the pandemic has resulted in changes in pregnancy intentions, child-bearing and fertility, the direction of this relationship is unclear and is likely to be impacted by each country’s socio-economic status and stage of fertility transition. Understanding the fertility trajectory and the pandemic is important in understanding population structures and ageing, which have consequences for health policies, budgeting and economic activity.

Aim: This study aimed to conduct a scoping review of the impact of COVID-19 on unplanned pregnancy.

Methods: A rapid review of available literature using Google Scholar, PubMed and Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (MEDLINE), SocINDEX, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) Complete and Academic Search Ultimate. Articles in English from 2020 to 2021 were included.

Results: Fifteen articles were included. These were mostly cross-sectional, primary data-collection surveys exploring the relationship between COVID-19 and child-bearing intentions.

Conclusion: Access to contraceptives, socio-economic status and uncertainty about the health impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy were major themes that emerged when considering child-bearing intentions. Evidence of changes in the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions was not insignificant but should be explored further. Although the studies covered a range of countries, more studies are needed focusing on low- and middle-income countries where the socio-economic impact of child-bearing intention is greater. There is a need for causal analysis using country-level data and for longer studies using more robust methodologies. The pandemic will continue to influence birth rates.

Contribution: This article revealed gaps in the current literature on the measurement of the quantitative and causal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fertility and child-bearing. Findings from our study may assist in setting the trajectory for future research.


Sexual and reproductive health; lockdown; COVID-19; fertility; child-bearing intentions; contraceptive access


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Crossref Citations

1. Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s fertility intentions and its policy implications for China and the rest of the world: a perspective essay
Tiantian Meng, Yongmei Zhang, Jiayu Lv, Chunle Zhu, Lan Lan, Ting Zhang
Biodemography and Social Biology  vol: 68  issue: 2-3  first page: 87  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1080/19485565.2023.2221842