Social and demographic drivers of trend and seasonality in elective abortions in Denmark

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Background: Elective abortions show a secular decline in high income countries. That general pattern, however, may mask meaningful differences—and a potentially rising trend—among age, income, and other racial/ethnic groups. We explore these differences in Denmark, a high-income, low-fertility country with excellent data on terminations and births.

Methods: We examined monthly elective abortions (n = 225,287) from 1995 to 2009, by maternal age, parity, income level and mother’s country of origin. We applied time-series methods to live births as well as spontaneous and elective abortions to approximate the denominator of pregnancies at risk of elective abortion. We used linear regression methods to identify trend and seasonal patterns.

Results: Despite an overall declining trend, teenage women show a rising proportion of pregnancies that end in an elective termination (56% to 67%, 1995 to 2009). Non-Western immigrant women also show a slight increase in incidence. Heightened economic disadvantage among non-Western immigrant women does not account for this rise. Elective abortions also show a sustained “summer peak” in June, July and August. Low-income women show the most pronounced summer peak.

Conclusions: Identification of the causes of the increase over time in elective abortion among young women, and separately among non-Western immigrant women, represents key areas of further inquiry. The unexpected increase over time in elective abortions among teens and non-Western immigrants in Denmark may signal important social and cultural impediments to contraception. The summer peak in abortions among low-income women, moreover, conflicts with the conventional assumption that the social and demographic composition of mothers who electively end their pregnancy remains stable within a calendar year.
Original languageEnglish
Article number214
JournalB M C Pregnancy and Childbirth
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017

    Research areas

  • Elective abortion, Trend, Seasonality, Denmark, Time series

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