New Study Reveals How Much Control Women Have Over The Number Of Births They Want And When

Juliet Kelso breaks down the results of a new CDC study that looks at American women and pregnancy trends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics just published its findings based on contextualized data from the 2011 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). The study, titled “Intended and Unintended Births in the United States: 1982–2010,” examines intended versus unintended births in the United States, demonstrating how much control women truly have over the number of births they want and when.

The report shows trends since 1982 in whether or not women wanted to get pregnant just before their pregnancies occurred, drawing from diverse survey pools inclusive of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States whose pregnancies concluded with live births. This was statistically designed to accurately reflect the entire U.S. female population.

The zoomed-out numbers provide salient realities, but the study also contains multiple tables with a variety of demographic specifications that highlight some disconcerting group disparities. Here’s the skinny: About 1 in 3 births (37%) in the United States are unintended at the time of conception, a figure which has not declined significantly since 1982. Out of total births to ever-married women, only non-Hispanic white women have experienced significant improvement in the percentage which were intended (from 72% to 78%). Black and Hispanic women show no such significant improvement. For both ever-married and never-married women, 68% of non-Hispanic white women intended on becoming pregnant. This number drops to 57% for Hispanic women and 47% for black women. Yet, out of total unintended pregnancies, white women claim 45%, while Hispanic women claim 25%, and black women claim 22%.

Another interesting finding came out of questioning women as to why they were not using contraception. The most popular response was that they didn’t think they could get pregnant, but college-educated women were significantly less likely to give this response. NSFG also cites issues associated with unintended births including elevated risk of adverse social, economic, and health outcomes for the mother and the child, delayed prenatal care, and other risk behaviors during pregnancy, and an estimated annual cost of $11 billion to taxpayers for short-term medical needs.

Many more significant findings exist within the NSFG Intended and Unintended Births in the United States: 1982–2010 report, and we suggest you visit download the study to learn more.

NSFG is an ongoing project conducted by the Center for Disease Control. Its data on family life, marriage and divorce, pregnancy, infertility, use of contraception, and men’s and women’s health is used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and others to plan health services and health education programs, and to do statistical studies of families, fertility, and health.

Juliet Kelso is a senior English major with concentrated studies in gender ideology at Bucknell University, where she is also editor of the campus newspaper. Her works have been published in Her Campus Magazine, The Bucknellian, and The Rambler. She is currently acting as marketing and editing assistant at David Fickling Books & The Phoenix Comic in Oxford, England.

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