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No Such Thing as "Oops!"Pregnancies

family planning, getting pregnant

Oops? Are you sure?

A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that a significant number of surprise pregnancies should be all that big of a surprise.

Most mistimed or unwanted pregnancies, researchers found, happened not because of birth control failure, rather, in its absence. Or at the very least, after it was used incorrectly.

CDC surveyed 7,000 women of child-bearing age about their contraceptive use. Extrapolating from that, they figure there are around 4.5 million women who are sexually active and hoping to avoid pregnancy but not using any kind of birth control.

Still other women are using birth control but not consistently. For example, they forget to take their oral contraception or they use condoms only sometimes.

Reporting on the CDC study, the LA Times breaks down the effective rates of various types of birth control — pretty high if actually used. So why would women who don’t want to get pregnant not use contraception? The survey showed affordability is one reason, as is lack of access to a health care provider. (I’d argue that the pill’s prescription-only required is a big deterrent.) Also, some women don’t understand how certain methods work, or they are reluctant to use them for religious reasons.

The birth control pill has been an area of confusion for a lot of women, too.

Many women are unwilling to take hormonal contraceptives, such as the birth control pill, because of potentially serious side effects such as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke; others are scared off by the possibility of weight gain or bloating.

Sexual partners also influence women’s decision-making. In the CDC survey, 7% of women who had experienced an unintended birth reported that their male partner hadn’t wanted them to use birth control; an additional 10% said that their partner had resisted using contraception himself.

Then there are those who thought they couldn’t get pregnant, don’t understand how fertility relates to their menstrual cycles (hello, health class!). Some 87 percent of all of the women reported they have skipped birth control at least once because, well, they hadn’t expected to have sex.

Only women were surveyed. And while they’re the ones who necessarily face the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy, a survey of men could fill out the rest of the picture. Men make up the majority of policymakers who get to decide what and how much is available. Understanding American men’s actions and attitudes about contraception could offer new solutions.

The LA Times gets a little preachy at the end of its piece on the survey — something along the lines of “you have options, ladies, you need to use them!” But the survey shows there are real problems concerning birth control in the U.S. an those are worth understanding.

Care you share your “oops!” pregnancy story?

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