Government Report Finds Increase In Unintended Pregnancies
July 25, 2012

Government Report Finds Increase In Unintended Pregnancies

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A new government report recently found that an increase in cohabitation of unmarried couples is causing an increase in unintended pregnancies.

The National Survey of Growth defined “unintended” pregnancies as births that were “mistimed,” occurring within or before a mother had planned on pregnancy, or “unwanted,” not wanted by the mother/the mother already had other children. In particular, the number of births to cohabiting women rose from 14 percent in 2002 to 23 percent in 2006. As well, three-quarters of all births to married women were intended as compared to half of births of cohabiting women and a third of births women who were not married and not cohabiting.

“We have made no progress since 1982 in reducing the percentage of births that are unintended," remarked report author William Mosher, a statistician at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, in a U.S. News article. "It was 37 percent in 1982, and it's still 37 percent."

The report highlights trends from 1982 and mostly looks at data from the 2006 to 2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) that was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention´s National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers completed in-person interviews among 12,279 women between the ages of 15 and 44. They did not include abortions, miscarriages, or stillbirths in the pregnancy count.

"Because there's an underlying shift in the population that more people are cohabiting, that leads to more unintended pregnancies and unintended births," Larry Finer, director of domestic research at the non-profit Guttmacher Institute, told USA Today.

Furthermore, the researchers found that approximately 37 percent of the births in the U.S. were unintended. In particular, they found that demographic such as unmarried women, black women, and women with less education or income had a higher likelihood of having unintended births as married, white, college-educated, and high-income women. Education was a particular factor; 59 percent of births to women with less than a high school diploma were intended, while 83 percent of births to college-educated women were intended. Age was also a factor; almost 77 percent of teens´ pregnancies were unintended, while 50 percent of births were unintended for women ages 20 to 24 and 25 percent of women ages 25 to 44.

"These are staggering statistics," commented Sheryl Kingsberg, a professor of reproductive biology and psychiatry at University Hospitals Case Medical Center not affiliated with the study, in an article by ABC News. "Here we are with various means of effective birth control at our fingertips, but it's not reaching the population that needs it the most."

My Health News Daily also reports that unintended births are related to delayed prenatal care, smoking during pregnancy, not breastfeeding the baby, a weak mother-daughter relationship, as well as poorer health during childhood.

According to the report, unintended pregnancies can have financial costs as well; studies estimated costs from $11.1 to $11.3 billion per year, not including long-term costs of unintended pregnancy and nonmedical costs.

"The widening income gap in unintended pregnancies and births reflect underlying disparities in health care in general, which in turn reflect broad social inequities in our society," Nadine Peacock, an associate professor of community health sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago, told ABC News.

Researchers originally thought that there would be a decrease in unintended births due to longer-acting contraceptive methods. However, there aren´t enough people to warrant a change; the contraceptives may be too expensive or women may not be aware of particular methods like intrauterine devices and vaginal rings . Based on the data, in 2008, 19 percent of births were unintended and 36 percent of women who had unintended births stated that they didn´t use contraception because they believed they wouldn´t become pregnant. Another 23 percent mentioned that they “didn´t really mind if [they] got pregnant.

"A lot seems to have to do with the fact people are increasingly ambivalent about whether or not to have a child," noted Karen Guzzo, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University, in the USA Today article. "They're in this committed relationship and are often cohabiting and not trying hard to avoid having a child, but they're not trying to have one, either."

Researchers believe that the unintended births could affect social and public health issues.

"If all births in the U.S. were intended there would be very few teen births, there would be much fewer births to unmarried women, there would be much fewer births to 20- to 24-year-olds," concluded Mosher in the US. News article. "Parenthood would be concentrated to married and cohabiting women 25 to about 39."