Nearly half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended

Midsection shot of three pregnant belliesDid you know that 49% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended? I sure didn’t.
Thankfully, people like Krystale Littlejohn and Professor Paula England of Stanford University’s Sociology Department – are looking into how we can change that statistic:

With studies indicating that lower-educated women and women in their 20s account for more than half of all abortions, the Stanford researchers want to know why more women in those groups are not consistently using birth control, especially when they don’t want to get pregnant.
“We’re trying to figure out where the system is breaking down,” England said. “You need to get to the point where contraception is so convenient and user-friendly that people who don’t want to get pregnant use it all the time.”
The researchers want to know if the inconsistencies in birth control use are because of a lack of information, services or self-control. They want to know if the cost of contraception is a factor. They want to know if partners are uncooperative when it comes to wearing a condom.
And they’re asking how women learn about birth control.

I’m willing to bet that the last decade of abstinence-only education has a little something to do with these numbers – but I’m sure access and cost are also factors. If you’ve ever gone without birth control…care to share why?

Join the Conversation

  • IAmGopherrr

    Yeah, I know. I was a bit miffed they didnt out a little bubble caption at the bottom of the screen when they said that (meaning the Pill is an abortificent among other falsehoods).After all it is the LEARNING channel!

  • Sloppy Sandwich

    70% is pretty good? Are you sure you’re comfortable with a 30% chance of getting pregnant each month? That’s huge. If you flip a coin twice, there’s a 25% chance you’ll get heads twice. You’re more likely to get pregnant than that. Pull out two coins and see how long it takes you to get 2 heads in 2 flips. Unless you’re pretty much okay with getting pregnant (and maybe you are) how can you see 70% effective as pretty good?

  • mcaroline

    I have a problem with people thinking “birth control” meaning hormonal birth control alone. I have a problem with only using condoms in the beginning of the relationship, and then switching to HBC so you can stop using condoms.
    That statistic is my huge extended catholic family. This mentality of “pill gives me headaches, condoms ruin the mood” and “we are just really fertile”. This mentality makes 5,6,7 kids per family, and that’s not fair to anyone.
    I have a problem with teenage girls NOT being taught to track their periods and know what different cervical mucous means. Fertility awareness is something everyone has the right to know. And it should never be confused or classified with “NFP” and other non-methods.
    This is a really great and informative chart.

  • IAmGopherrr

    What about this? Its remote controlled birth control but as of now theyre only proposing it for men. Meets all of your requirements.

  • Taisa Marie

    It can sometimes not be clear out-of-context, but the student who made the comment about having side effects on the pill made the conclusion that other birth control must produce the same side effects because it does the same thing, and therefor was unwilling to consider ANY other type of birth control. It didn’t matter to her if it was hormonal or not.

  • Kessei

    The right wing won’t support it, and neither would I.
    You want populations which have historically been pushed away from having children and stigmatized, including black women, Latina women, young women, poor women, and women with disabilities, among others, to be made infertile by default and then have to convince a doctor to REMOVE the infertility (ie that it’s an “uncoerced desire”)?
    No, thanks.

  • nml002

    I wouldn’t worry too much about perforation. I mean, yes it can happen, but talk to your doctor about your concerns.
    One thing with Paragard (non-hormonal) is that you have to be in a monogamous relationship because it increases your risk of PID if you have more than one partner. Just something to be aware of.

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    and naturally, the reversal procedure must not require any pre-qualifications other than the un-coerced desire of the individual to have the procedure reversed.

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    It’s not a bad start, but considering how many people sabotage their partner’s birth control as a means of coercing a baby, I’d prefer something that is more secure.

  • Emily

    Actually, pull out is something like 95% for those who’ve mastered it.

  • middlechild

    Whoa, whoa– “half of pregnancies are unplanned” does not equal “half of children are born to parents who don’t want them.”
    In general, if a woman decides to carry a pregnancy to term, she is committed to motherhood by the time she gives birth.”
    I should have put that; I realize it’s true. There are plenty of people whose children are unintended and are loved (I DID touch on that, in the point that I made about “stable parents”, people who have been sexually active for a while and have practice).
    It’s still not great. Wasn’t that part of the discussion when Bristol Palin got pregnant? It’s unlikely she carefully planned out why she wanted a child and decided to get pregnant. She got knocked up.
    That baby will be loved (I hope) and cared for. Lots of children born to people who are, frankly, accidents, will be loved. But I still can’t smile and clap at the idea of conception/pregnancy as something taken so lightly, treated so carelessly, even by people who think they are “good” parents.
    If it’s romantic for lust and impulse (and maybe some romanticization of babies, totally divorced from any forethought of the problems you might encounter as they grow, or even at their birth) to guide the conception of children born to “good parents,” is it still romantic when those children are born to people who aren’t?
    The problems surrounding unintended/unplanned-for children remains, even if the parents are ultimately stable.

  • middlechild

    When we do this, and people have to actively decide to have children rather than fall into it and “try to make the best of it” (ie, actively ignoring the downsides and trying to focus instead on the upsides) there will be a precipitous drop in child abuse and neglect, and the social fallout that comes with that.”
    Thank you. I’m tired of how often that’s ignored, glossed over, or waved off defensively when unintended pregnancy is discussed as problematic, for just reason. Yes, there are plenty of good parents who bear children as the result of their wanting to fuck, instead of their active forethought on behalf of their children. There are a lot of shitty ones too, and, short of that, parents who are already strained enough with their current children. I realize it’s easy to get knocked up, but if we take the welfare of children seriously, in principle, the idea of haphazard impulsiveness guiding the existence of the next generation shouldn’t be shrugged at, or minimized.

  • GalFawkes

    But FAM *is* a form of birth control.

  • gypsy

    I don’t take the pill because of hormonal problems. I was told by a gyno and a endocrinologist that they COULD try me on b/c (despite my violent allergic reactions to synthetic thyroid hormones) but it would be a crap shoot if it helped or hurt my existing problems. I’d have to stick out 6 months (at least) of side effects to “see if my body adjusted to it” and it helped. If not, then I’d get to try another one….
    I deal with condoms. *sighs* I went through every hormonal hell imaginable “adjusting” to thyroid meds (hot flashes, hair fell out, nausea, anxiety, depression, being too cold all of the time, exhaustion etc) – it’s just not worth doing it again….
    Now if a doctor could say “here’s your problems and THIS b/c has a reasonable chance of working for you” I’d take the chance. But I’m uncomfortable when doctors use the phrase “crap shoot.” :p
    One day I will have insurance and invest in a nice Paraguard IUD.

  • gypsy

    oh, and a good friend of mine DID get pregnant while using depo and a condom. (The condom had a teeny hole, and depo doesn’t work when you take antibiotics. :p )

  • South

    I’m an Andrologist and I have done the literature survey. You cannot get pregnant from pre-cum. All sperm ever observed in pre-cum have been imotile; dead. I will never recomend the pull out method to anyone. But you cannot get pregnant from pre-cum.
    (You will find many internet sources that insist this is other wise, even some authorative ones that should know better. But if you go back to the peer reviewed publications where they’ve actually done the research, where they’ve actually looked under a microscope rather than just having heard or read it somewhere you see that you can not get pregnant from pre-cum)

  • ggg_girl

    It’s actually a 30% chance per year according to that statistic. Birth control effeciveness for typical use is measured in woman-years, the percentage of women who become pregnant in a year using that method.
    For me the liklihood is much lower because I see my partner infrequently since we live far apart, and we use condoms a lot of the time too. We also use the pull out method sometimes too. We lower our risk of pregnancy by taking showers after he has ejaculated and before we sex without a condom. It’s a method that does carry higher risk of pregnancy and many people are not in a place to take that risk. However, i’m aware of the higher pregnancy risk and it’s a choice I’m not ashamed of. I think some of the prevelent attitudes towards pulling out that it’s always irresponsible or that it’s always a bad decision or it’s the same thing as doing nothing at all are harmful. It can be a decent method for some people, and a good method especially when combined with other methods.

  • Cola

    I did a word search for “head,” “depersonalize,” “dehumanize,” and “crop” before deciding to write this comment, so I apologize if anyone already addressed this.
    But is anyone else bothered by the photo at the top of this post? Come on! We criticize media all the time for dehumanizing women by chopping them up into bits and reducing them to ideas. We especially criticize media that depersonalizes pregnant women, because it prioritizes the pregnancy itself and reduces the woman to the fetus inside her. Using such cropped imagery seems somewhat hypocritical to me.
    Come on, guys. Not cool.

  • Kessei

    Frankly, that is SO unlikely, that I rather thought that part of the comment was tongue-in-cheek.
    Yeah, I can just imagine it. A black woman walks into a white doctor’s office for a consultation, and he takes one look at her before saying, “Did your boyfriend put you up to this?”

  • Sloppy Sandwich

    Of course don’t be ashamed, it was not my intention to shame. Thanks for your reply and good luck.

  • SaltyLilKipper

    I have to wonder what “unintended” means exactly. I wasn’t a planned pregnancy. My mother told me it was early in the morning and they just didn’t think to use anything.
    However, my parents were in their thirties, married, and had already had my older sister. They planned on having more children as well, but they didn’t plan having me at that time.
    What does unintended mean? Yes, there are scared young people out there who become pregnant or parents because they don’t have access to birth control, but I’m not buying that nearly half of all pregnancies are completely out-of-the-blue accidents. There’s actively trying to not get pregnant and then there’s not trying to get pregnant, but also not really trying to avoid getting pregnant.

  • SaltyLilKipper

    Yeah, that sounds like a great idea for a product.
    I might be completely misunderstanding you, but it sounds to me like you’re suggesting it as some sort of mandatory medical procedure that would be automatically used on everyone, like a vaccine.
    Um, no thanks. I’m on the pill and it works just fine and dandy for me. I have absolutely no desire to become implanted with something that would make me infertile (even temporarily). I like the pill. I like the flexibility of the pill. I can make the choice in the privacy of my home every day take it (or not take it) without assistance from medical personnel.
    Choice is key. Yeah, an invention like that would be awesome…for those who want it. But mandatory devices to control fertility being put into place upon sexual maturity? That’s not a place I want our society to go. Not at all.