Unintended Pregnancies Affect All Groups
Regardless of Age, Education, or Income
Sept. 10, 2002 -- When it comes to surprise visits, that stork is really an equal-opportunity offender. New research shows unintended pregnancies aren't just a problem for disadvantaged populations, but nearly a third of all pregnancies among well-educated and affluent women are unplanned.
In a study based on a group of women in which the majority were married, educated, and had annual household incomes of over $40,000, researchers found that 29% of the births were unintended. Even more startling is the fact that 60% of the women who said they had no intention of getting pregnant were not using contraception.
"Traditionally, attention has been focused on unintended pregnancies in disadvantaged populations, but few studies have focused on women in affluent, lower-risk groups," says study researcher Diane Green, PhD, of Emory University, in a news release. "These data show that the same issues are in play even for women with higher education level and more financial resources."
The study appears in the Sept. 6 issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal.
The researchers studied 1,173 births among mostly married, white, college-educated women. They found only 40% of the women who had an unintended pregnancy were using contraception, and two thirds of those were using barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms. Green says barrier methods are often less effective than hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, and pregnancies often occur as a result of incorrect use of condoms or other barrier methods.
Whether the male partner wanted the pregnancy also seemed to be significant. Women who said their partner did not want the pregnancy were more than seven times more likely to regard the pregnancy as unintended.
"The male partner has a high degree of influence on the use of contraception," says Green. "By including them more actively in contraceptive decisions and family planning matters, we can reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies."
Unintended pregnancies can increase the risks to both the baby and mother by delaying prenatal care and increasing the likelihood of pregnancy-related complications and birth defects.