One in three births in the Philippines is unplanned


One in three births (36 percent) in the Philippines is either unwanted (16 percent) or mistimed (20 percent), according to the results of the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). Unplanned pregnancies are more likely to occur among older women than younger women. The survey data reveals that more than half (53 percent) of births to women age 40-44 in the 5 years preceding the survey were unplanned; the majority (84 percent) of such births were unwanted. Among women age 15-19, 31 percent of births were unplanned, of which, only 21 percent were unwanted. These findings are based on the responses of women age 15-49 years to the question as to whether each of their births in the five years preceding the survey was wanted at the time of birth, mistimed or wanted but a later time, or not wanted at all.

The women were also asked their ideal number of children. Four in 10 Filipino women said that they would prefer to have two children if they had a choice, while three in 10 said that they would choose to have three children. In comparison, a much lower proportion of women would rather have four or more children; four children is ideal for only 14 percent of the women, while five or more is ideal for 8 percent of women.

Based on the women's reported ideal number of children, the resulting mean ideal number of children in the Philippines is 2.8 children. Less educated women and those belonging to poorer households would choose to have more children. The mean ideal number of children for women with no education is 5.0 as compared to 2.7 for women with college or higher education; and 3.5 for women in the lowest wealth quintile as compared to 2.6 for those in the highest wealth quintile.

The current fertility in the Philippines, as measured by the total fertility rate (TFR), however, is 3.3 children, which is higher than the mean ideal number of children (2.8 children). The TFR is defined as the number of births a woman would have, on average, at the end of her reproductive years if she experienced the current prevailing birth rates among women age 15-49.

The 2008 NDHS is a nationally representative survey of almost 14,000 households and 14,000 women 15-49, conducted from August 7 to September 27, 2008. The 2008 NDHS is the ninth in a series of demographic surveys undertaken by the National Statistics Office at five-year intervals since 1968.

Other major findings of the 2008 NDHS will be presented in a data dissemination forum on January 14, 2010. The final report on the survey findings will be distributed in the forum.


                                                                                                       (Sgd.) CARMELITA N. ERICTA




Table 1.  Percent distribution of births to women age 15-49 in the five years preceding the survey (including current pregnancies), by planning status of the birth, according to mother's age, Philippines: 2008 NDHS

  Mother's age at birth     Planning status of birth     Total     Number of  
 at time 
 of birth 
 no more 
Mother's age at birth            
 <20 69.2 24.1 6.5 0.2 100.0 723
 20-24 65.0 26.7 7.9 0.4 100.0 1,921
 25-29 65.0 20.2 14.3 0.5 100.0 1,939
 30-34 62.1 15.9 21.3 0.6 100.0 1,345
 35-39 56.2 12.8 30.2 0.8 100.0 801
 40-44 46.8 8.6 44.0 0.6 100.0 310
 45-49 (49.9) (2.9) (36.9) (10.3) 100.0 25
Total 63.0 20.2 16.3 0.5 100.0 7,065
Note: Figures in parentheses are based on 25-49 unweighted cases.


Table 2.  Percent distribution of women age 15-49 by ideal number of children, Philippines: 2008 NDHS

  Ideal number of children     Percent  
  0 1.0
  1 5.5
  2 41.5
  3 28.4
  4 14.2
  5 4.4
  6+ 4.0
  Non-numeric response 1.0
Total 100.0
Number of women 13,594


Table 3.  Mean ideal number of children for all women age 15-49 and total fertility rate for the three years preceding the survey, by background characteristics, Philippines: 2008 NDHS

  Mean ideal
  number of children  
  fertility rate  
  Urban 2.7 2.8
  Rural 3.1 3.8
  No education 5.0 *
  Elementary 3.3 4.5
  High School 2.7 3.5
  College 2.7 2.3
Wealth Quintile    
  Lowest 3.5 5.2
  Second 3.0 4.2
  Middle 2.8 3.3
  Fourth 2.7 2.7
  Highest 2.6 1.9
Philippines 2.8 3.3
Note: Total fertility rates are for the period 1-36 months prior to interview. An asterisk indicates a figure is based on fewer than 500 unweighted women and has been suppressed.