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Young Adults Know Little about Birth Control, Pregnancy


A national survey of unmarried young adults ages 18 to 29 reveals that 63 percent know “little” or “nothing” about birth control pills, only about half use contraception regularly, and about 40 percent believe it does not matter whether you use birth control because pregnancy will happen when it is your time.

The new research results were released by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and surveyed 1,800 unmarried young adults. It is the first survey of this type to focus in depth on the behavior and attitudes of unmarried men and women concerning pregnancy planning, birth control methods, and related issues.

Nearly all of the surveyed young adults (86% of men, 88% of women) say it is important that they avoid pregnancy at this time in their lives and that pregnancy should be planned (94% of men, 86% of women), yet only about 50 percent of sexually active unmarried young people use contraception regularly. Nineteen percent said they did not use contraception at all over the past three months, and nearly one-fifth of both men and women said it was either extremely or quite likely they would engage in unprotected sex in the next three months.

The young adults also revealed misinformation about birth control and pregnancy. Eighteen percent of men say that having sex standing up reduces the chances of getting pregnant, while nearly half of the respondents who have used birth control pills incorrectly say that women should take a break from using them every few years.

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The respondents’ knowledge about condoms is poor. Thirty percent of unmarried young adults say they know little or nothing about condoms, and 28 percent of men believe that wearing two condoms provides extra protection.

Young adults also are suspicious and afraid of birth control. One-third of men and 27 percent of women say it is extremely or quite likely that using birth control pills or other hormonal methods of contraception will result in cancer or other serious health problems. One-third of respondents also agreed with the statement: “The government is trying to limit Blacks and other minority populations by encouraging the use of birth control.” Nearly half say that drug companies are not concerned about the safety of birth control and only want to make money.

The survey, which is entitled The Fog Zone: How Misperceptions, Magical Thinking, and Ambivalence Put Young Adults at Risk for Unplanned Pregnancy, also notes that 20 percent of women and 43 percent of men say they would be at least somewhat happy if they discovered today that they or their partner were pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics also notes that 70 percent of pregnancy among unmarried women in their 20s are unplanned.

The results of this survey reveal that young adults’ knowledge about birth control and pregnancy is wrought with misinformation and misperceptions. Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy states that the survey results “suggest that this country is in desperate need of a new social norm” concerning pregnancy and contraception. “Unless both partners are seeking pregnancy and are committed to each other and to the years it takes to raise children, they must take active, careful, and consistent steps to avoid it.”

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy