77% of pregnancies among single, educated women in their 20s are accidental.
With last year’s talk of Juno, the Gloucester girls, Bristol Palin, and Jamie Lynn Spears, the media focused on unintended pregnancy of teens. Today, another group is identified at serious risk for unplanned pregnancies: single twentysomethings. According to a new study, 77% of pregnancies among single, educated women in their 20s are accidental.
The study, commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, is reported in the new issue of Self magazine (with Taylor Swift on the cover). I am quoted in the Self article discussing common traits of some twentysomethings who are abivalent about their future plans, and thus about their birth control choices.
Twentysomethings are very much in need of sex ed. According to The National Campaign study, there are major gaps in the knowledge they have about birth control. For example, more than half say they don’t know about IUDs, Depo-Provera, diaphragms, or the contraceptive ring. Also, 64% do not know that emergency contraception is sold over the counter without a prescription.
The biggest problem is that 54% of sexually active non-monogamous singles surveyed, and 34% of sexually active monogamous singles surveyed, don’t use birth control every time they have sex. Of course, this is why they are getting pregnant. The vast majority of pregnancies are caused by not using or improperly using birth control. Only about 1 in 20 accidental pregnancies are caused by the failure of birth control. The study found that almost 60% of those surveyed underestimate the risk of getting pregnant from not using birth control. They don’t know that among couples who have sex regularly, 85% will experience a pregnancy within one year if they do not use contraception.
There is a huge disconnect for twentysomethings, when 80% believe that pregnancy should be planned, but then they do not use birth control every time they have sex. When I lecture on college campuses, college students often tell me that they take the risk of having unprotected sex, and I implore them to never do that again. If sex education were required in high school, and then again in college, then perhaps we’d launch a new generation of sexually educated twentysomethings. Until then, remind all of the people you know that if they do not want an accidental pregnancy, they must use birth control every time they have sex.