37% of U.S. babies are "a surprise"

Have we mentioned that sex without birth control really does lead to pregnancy?

New data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tell us that 37% of all babies born to 15-44-year-old women between 2006 and 2010 were, ahem, a surprise. And of course that doesn’t account for unintended pregnancies that ended in miscarriage or abortion.

There was lots of useful information in the report (you can download it and nerd out if you’re so inclined), but what really stood out to us was the responses women gave about why they weren’t using contraception when they conceived. The number one reason women gave, to the tune of 36% of them, was “I didn’t think I could get pregnant.” To that, we say YES. YOU. CAN.

The next most popular reason women gave was not minding if they got pregnant (23%), followed by not expecting to have sex (17%). 14% of women said they weren’t using birth control when they got pregnant because they were worried about the side effects—allow us to note here that pregnancy itself has plenty of side effects (and we’re not even talking about giving birth to/raising a baby you didn’t plan for). The last 13% of respondents said their male partners either didn’t want to use birth control or didn’t want them to use it. (If you or someone you know is in that situation, remember that there are some birth control methods no one else needs to know about.)

A few more noteworthy points:

  • Younger women were much more likely than older women to have an unintended pregnancy—77% of pregnancies among 15-19-year-olds were unintended, 50% were among 20-24-year-olds, and 25% of pregnancies among 25-44-year-old women were unintended.

  • 23% of married women said their pregnancy was unintended in comparison to 67% of single women and 51% of cohabiting women.

  • Women with a college degree were much less likely to have an unintended pregnancy than women with less education.

The takeaway? There’s a good chance that you know some folks who aren’t using birth control and aren’t trying to get pregnant. Send ‘em over!

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