Unplanned pregnancies in States reach 4 in 10

November 12, 2012

Unplanned pregnancies in States reach 4 in 10

Over 40% of all pregnancies in the United States were not planned for according to the initial state level survey of pregnancies.

The non profit Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive matters, has just published a report in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, detailing state level data relating to unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. The 2006 data is the most recent available and the analysis delved into data held by national and state studies relating to pregnancy, and whether planned or not, or wanted or not, and births, miscarriages and abortions. The study was large scale involving data on more than 86,000 females who had babies and 9,000 who chose abortion. The analysis found that in the District of Columbia and in 29 other states more than 50% of all pregnancies were not planned. The figures for the other states ranged between 38% and 50%. The geographical areas where unintended pregnancies occurred the most were in the South and Southwest and in states with more city dwellers. Mississippi, with the highest incidence of unplanned pregnancies, saw that women aged from 15 to 44 had 69 unintended pregnancies for every 1,000 women. New Hampshire was at the other end of the scale with only 36 per 1,000. Claire Brindis is director of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California-San Francisco, and had no involvement in the analysis. She gives a view why the figures are so high. She says, “There are many, many reasons why people don’t plan ahead, even when it’s such a crucial decision”. She also adds that family-planning services in some regions are difficult to find and people not using birth control all add to the high incidence of unintended pregnancies. She also accepts the human factor and says that there is “a very strong denial factor – people think ‘this won’t happen to me’”.

The lead author for Guttmacher, Lawrence Finer said that this report was, “designed to produce state-level data estimates, not a national estimate”. Guttmacher will publish more facts relating to unintended pregnancies later this year and these reports will include data on a national level.

In the vast majority of states about three quarters (65% to 75%) of unplanned pregnancies were thought of as ‘mistimed’. However 25% to 35% were considered ‘unwanted’ according to the report.

Kelly Musick, who is a sociologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and was not involved in the research says, “We know we have very high levels of unintended pregnancy in the U.S., much higher than in most places around the developed world”.

It was seen that in 23 states where data was held from 2002 until 2006 the numbers of unintended pregnancies increased, eight states saw a decrease and three showed very little variation.

The ability to analyze states came about because additional data relating to states became available in 2006. The District of Columbia and six states did not carry out surveys and so no data was available. In these cases estimates were used.

Brindis highlights just how fickle humans can be when she says, “We do a better job of planning to buy tickets to see Lady Gaga than we do about being careful in planning for when we’re going to have children, how many children and when in our lives we’re going to have them”.

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