BackgroundA woman's ability to achieve her preferred family size is critical in addressing issues of high fertility in sub-Saharan Africa. The socio-cultural context in sub-Saharan Africa presents some difficulty for the attainment of preferred fertility for many women. Few studies in sub-Saharan Africa have examined the extent to which women are unable to achieve their preferred family sizes. This study, therefore, examines the factors that are associated with the non-attainment of women's preferred fertility by the end of their reproductive years.Data and methodsThe study analyzed pooled cross-sectional data with a sub-sample of 1,888 currently married women aged 45-49 years from five rounds of the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey, 1993 to 2014. Test of associations and multinomial logistic regression analysis were used to examine the predictors of underachieved and overachieved fertility relative to achieved fertility.ResultsThe results indicate that 44 per cent of the women recorded overachieved fertility while about 36 per cent underachieved their fertility. Partner wants more, experiencing child loss and married more than once were significantly associated with overachieved fertility. Nonetheless, increased years of a woman's education and delaying her at first birth were negatively associated with overachieved fertility. On the other hand, underachieved fertility was significantly associated with having a partner with fewer fertility preference, being of the Islamic faith and ever use of modern contraception.ConclusionPartner's fertility preference, child loss experience, marrying more than once and ever use of modern contraception were important predictors of a woman's inability to achieve her fertility preference. Policies to regulate men's fertility behaviour, delaying age at first birth, use of modern contraception, encouraging longer years of education, and reducing infant and child mortality are important strategies to achieve fertility preference in Ghana.