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According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the unintended pregnancies in the US occur among the 10.7% of women who use no contraceptive method at all (and no, downloading Period Tracker does not count as a contraceptive method). This finding comes only a few months after a study carried out by the amazingly named Dr Annie Dude at Duke University. Dr Dude’s findings revealed that 31% of young women in America aged between 15 and 24 had relied on the pull-out method at least once. Unsurprisingly, these women were 7.5% more likely to rely on emergency contraception than others and, even less surprisingly, of those who relied on the pull-out method, 21% had become pregnant.

Part of the problem is that women resent being the one in charge of contraception and they don’t like the negative side effects of the birth control. (But why no condom? Well, because the men don’t like them).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

23 Comments

  1. Deborah Nam-Krane
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 07:10:43

    I am horrified that we’ve done such a lousy job communicating to this generation that condoms not only help with birth control but also prevent the spread of the majority of STDs.

  2. Lynn M
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 07:42:15

    @Deborah Nam-Krane: While there is absolutely no excuse for a lack of education about the importance of contraception usage to prevent disease as well as unwanted pregnancy, I have to wonder if the reason this generation seems so casual about condom use is because they were raised after the AIDS/HIV panics of the 80s and early 90s. When I was a teen and young adult, AIDS was a huge, new thing that had us all terrified, and contraception education was everywhere. Now, though, it seems like I rarely hear anything at all about prevention of AIDS/HIV – it’s almost like it’s just assumed that of course you would use a condom to prevent spread of disease. I guess maybe we take that expectation for granted and need to go back to really reinforcing this critical safety practice to our young people. I know I plan to pound it into the heads of both my teen son and daughter – that first I expect them to wait but if they don’t, I expect them to use condoms.

  3. Lynn M
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 07:45:46

    On a separate note, just last night I was looking for reviews for an appliance that I need to purchase, and I landed on the CR website. They won’t give out any reviews and rankings unless you are a subscriber. While I totally get that they need to make money, I just have no desire to pay a fee for a service that I use maybe a handful of times every year or so. There are just too many free review sites out there. I feel for Consumer Reports, but their business model just isn’t sustainable in a world with a vast and free internet.

  4. Deborah Nam-Krane
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 07:53:30

    @Lynn M: That’s when I was raised too, and my perspective as well. (I do remember though reading little pieces in Mademoiselle and Glamour from 1982-84, right before the subject exploded into public consciousness, and casual sex with people you’d just met was much more acceptable.) It’s pretty lame that after all that time we somehow presented condoms as necessary evils and not things that made sexuality safe and enjoyable.

  5. mari
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 08:49:23

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that young women don’t use contraception. Since expecting abstinence until marriage is considered old fashioned and unrealistic, the attitude becomes one of “I’m gonna have my fun and not worry about it.” The pill for some people can decrease sexual desire and increase the risks of breast cancer. And condoms are not fun or easy to use and are often damn uncomfortable for both parties. STD’s in this country are looked on as treatable, manageable conditions. The CDC is actually now calling STD’s, STI’s now. That is “sexually transmitted infections,” in my opinion downplaying the risk. And of course with abortion as accessible and cheap as is, children can be gotten rid of pretty easily. I know few if any will agree with me here, but I believe the solution is not to medically do away with women’s fertility, but to respect it enough with love, marraiage and commitment, so that children (which are the reason sex exists in the first place) are looked upon as a desired outcome and not as “holy shits,” as in “holy shit I’m pregnant!” Oh well, my two cents. I just don’t see how this “sex without responsibility” is doing anyone any good.

  6. Lynnd
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 09:38:04

    The problem with the use of condoms and the increase in STIs is simply the fact that in far too many places, there is no sex education or woefully inadequate sex education. I was a teenager/young adult in the early to mid 80s when AIDS was the big issue and was front of mind and because it was a death sentence,responsible sexual activity (know your partner and who your partner has had sex with) and condom usage was discussed and encouraged everywhere. Even then, we got very little information about other STIs – probably because they were relatively easy to treat at tht time (we weren’t dealing with antibiotic resistance which is an issue now). I was lucky that I had a really good biology professor who discussed all of these things in great detail (he went to medical school before he decided that being a teacher would be better than being a doctor) and also pointed out that the risks of pregnancy are far greater than the risks of any contraception. The other factor is that teenagers and young adults are invinicible, immortal and omnipotent and know far more than us old “fuddy duddies.” Governments, educators and religious groups need to just accept that kids and young adults have had sex and will always have sex outside of marriage (whether they choose to accept that or not) and decide that it’s more important to give kids proper sex education so that they will at least know what the risks are. The result might actually be that teens and young adults will end up being more responsible about their sexual activity.

    As for the preganacy issue, I think we’re talking to the wrong group – we need to be telling the boys what their child support responsibilities are going to be if there girlfriend gets pregnant (and point out to them what they won’t be able to buy instead) – that might make more of them think that they need to take precautions as well (and the easiest and cheapest thing is a condom).

  7. hapax
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 09:46:18

    @Lynn M:

    They won’t give out any reviews and rankings unless you are a subscriber. While I totally get that they need to make money, I just have no desire to pay a fee for a service that I use maybe a handful of times every year or so. There are just too many free review sites out there.

    And, to be blunt, with most “free” review sites, you get what you pay for.

    There are some review sites I trust (the equivalent of DA and SBTB for products), but not many. The great advantage of Consumer Reports is not only their refusal to take advertising, but their reliance on judges with objective expertise.

    HOWEVER — should you not be able to pay for CR membership, the odds are pretty good that your public library already has! And even if it’s inconvenient to go visit that library, many in the US have their periodicals available online 24/7. Your taxes have already paid for it — why not use it?

    [Here endeth the public service announcement]

  8. library addict
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 09:50:27

    and that more likely advanced intergalactic travelers have observed us and decided we are too stupid to conquer

    LOL. Very cool that you got to see Neil deGrasse Tyson in person. I’ve always admired that he’s willing to poke fun at himself (such as his appearance on The Big Bang Theory).

    The problem with abstinence only education is that they leave off the “education” part. But lack of condom usage isn’t only a problem with young people. Wasn’t there an article earlier this year how STDs among senior citizens are on the rise?

  9. hapax
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 09:50:47

    Far too many high school students in the USA are educated through the ridiculous, deceptive, counter-productive “abstinence only” education.

    My children report that they were taught that condoms don’t work to prevent either pregnancy or disease, that birth control pills were dangerous and made women less likely to get pregnant after discontinuing use, that rape was the victim’s fault … all in the state-approved curriculum.

    It’s horrifying.

  10. Deborah Nam-Krane
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 09:55:15

    I just finished reading Green Illusions by Ozzie Zehner. In his discussion about population control, he noted that teenagers are seeing a rise in their rate of pregnancy in this country. This was notable because this *isn’t* the case in many other countries in which teenagers are sexually active and that sexual activity is understood and accepted.

    So yes, we absolutely need to improve education, but we also need to normalize teenage sexuality.

  11. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:06:25

    This commercial advocating condom use has been around a while, but still very funny. Of course, it was banned in many countries (!?)

  12. Jody W.
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:12:56

    That’s sad about Consumer Reports! I do trust their information more than the general free sites out there, including Amazon. In fact, we just got the 11 year old a subscription to CR for her iTouch because she LOVES comparing things. She uses it all the time. She compares everything from diapers to donuts, and I don’t worry about her running into nasty ads and viruses on the CR site.

  13. CK
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:24:47

    @Anthea Lawson: That was pretty hilarious. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor during high school and college and being around little kids everyday guaranteed my fanatical compliance to birth control and condoms. Not surprisingly, all the other instructors felt the same way :)

    Some young women today… see having the control as a burdensome, irritatingly one-sided responsibility.

    I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Please tell me that can’t be true.

  14. Debbie
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:59:02

    I am the mother of two young adults and a nurse who works with this age group daily. Most of them attended high schools where “abstinence only” education was taught. They were taught that the pill has horrifying side effects that can cause cancer and permanent infertility. They are also told that condoms are mostly ineffective. So what would motivate them to use these? Also, many young women do not have a place to go to get prescription birth control that is affordable.

    Many seem to rely on “rhythm” and “pulling out” until they are in a relationship where they are having sex on a regular basis. Also, at least half my daughter’s (she is 24) friends admit that they have used emergency contraception after having unplanned sex. So they have that in mind as the fall back option.

    I think the solution is better education when they are teens and more affordable places to get access to reliable birth control.

  15. Demi
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 12:57:04

    That commercial was hilarious!
    I’m part of the generation that straddles Gen X and Gen Y, having been a teenager in the mid to late 90′s, and I’ve noticed a gradual change in how birth control is portrayed in the media. This is by no means a comprehensive study, but it seems to me like the message used to be that birth control is empowering, and it’s good to be a woman who has control over her own body and reproductive rights, but that it’s changed to something along the lines of ‘oh noes the birth control is dangerous to your health and there’s a lawsuit and the other options are scary and give you cancer so you should use this homeopathic thing instead’. I’m not sure why this is, exactly, but maybe it has something to do with the HIV/AIDS scare calming down a bit, and the rise of HPV (which is nearly impossible to protect against without abstinence). Maybe women are just thinking they don’t have control any more so why bother?
    I can’t help but think of the book by Susan Faludi about the backlash against feminism. That was written in the mid-90′s I believe, but a lot of it still holds true.

  16. Liz H.
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 13:09:53

    Misconceptions and misunderstandings about contraception, sexuality, and everything that goes with it are rampant, among all age groups.
    As many readers have noted, absinence-only education is a huge problem in many states in the US, and studies have shown that states that require abstence-based sex-ed have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22022362)
    STI rates have also doubled in seniors in the last decade. (http://www.cdcnpin.org/scripts/population/elderly.asp) Maybe Grandma and Me sex-ed classes are the solution? I think I’d pay to see that one, lol.
    For those looking for a resource, my state (yea NJ!) founded a great sex-ed website, written by and for teenagers- http://www.sexetc.org
    As for a few of the misconceptions discussed above- Birthcontrol is not linked to increased cancer risk, and in fact lowers the risk of several types of cancer. (http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/6/631)
    And for a little science class- a disease is a generally considered a condition that causes pathology or illness. An infection is the presence of a potentially-disease causing organism in the body (that isn’t necessarily causing any symptoms at the time).

  17. De
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 14:19:24

    My library pays a good chunk of money each year for Consumer Reports online. It’s accessed with the same login as all of our Ebsco databases. We also have a paper subscription that people have to come in to use.

    But please check with your library about Consumer Reports.

  18. Lynnd
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 14:26:23

    @hapax: This just makes me very, very sad.

    In my earlier comment, I should have said biology teacher (not professor) and his unit on sex and pregnancy was taught in grade 10. B

  19. Anya
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 14:49:57

    There’s a difference between the so-called rhythm method and using fertility awareness as a contraception method. When used properly, fertility awareness based methods can be as effective as condoms, etc. (96% effective). However, they must be used properly (which means entirely abstaining from sex during fertile periods, or using an alternative method for protection, and no, the pull out method does not count) in order to be effective.

    I work for an organization that has worked on developing fertility awareness as an effective tool for family planning (aka FP); in addition to developing the methods, we also do research on implementation and adoption, as well as gender norms and community transformation (in the context of sexual and reproductive health, aka SRH). To be fair, we primarily work in the developing world, where often norms are far less favorable than in the US to women having control (or knowledge) over their SRH even if FP options are nominally widely available. And we acknowledge that fertility awareness methods are not for everyone, and do not address preventing the spread of STIs. Often women have religious or cultural beliefs that prevent them from using a FP planning method like pills or condoms, even if they want to prevent pregnancy. We strongly advocate for correct, accurate information to be available, both about how the reproductive system actually works, as well as about how other methods work. Women and their partners need to have an option that works best for them, rather than a one size fits all solution, and that requires that they possess accurate information in order to make that decision.

    In addition, one thing that we have found is that adding fertility awareness based methods to the basket of FP options available actually increases overall FP use, and not just in fertility awareness based methods. So there’s that.

  20. Wahoo Suze
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 21:15:20

    Since expecting abstinence until marriage is considered old fashioned and unrealistic,

    In North America, conservative religious groups have been actively campaigning for years to make abstinence until marriage the only option teenagers know about, which has never, in the history of ever, been an effective strategy. The current increase in teenage pregnancies and STIs is the obvious and predicted outcome of that. As many have noted above, teenagers need sex education beyond “just don’t do it”.

    And of course with abortion as accessible and cheap as is,

    Ya-huh. Where’s that, exactly?

  21. Christine
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 12:03:11

    I signed up for a Consumer Reports subscription last month so that we could take advantage of their price guarantee certificate thingy for buying a new car, which worked out really well–for the cost of a $6.95 subscription and a $14 car report, we were able to same something like 6.4% off the MSRP with no haggling. I’ve tried it a few times since for researching vacuums and air purifiers and found it pretty useless because their “recommended” items were way out of our price range and the actual consumer reviews seemed to completely contradict CR’s findings. I ended up using Amazon reviews to make a decision.

  22. txvoodoo
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 14:37:03

    @Wahoo Suze

    I utterly agree with you. I’m 51, so I’ve seen the gamut of issues from the sexual revolution, contraception and abortion availability, the rise of AIDS and HPV, etc. I’ve seen the level of knowledge of reproductive health in your average young person decline dramatically due to mandatory abstinence-only education. Bad info now abounds, more than when I was growing up.

    And at the end of the day, abstinence doesn’t work. It didn’t work for my very religious, Catholic grandmother in 1923 – at her funeral, one of our cousins said “Catherine was the one who taught us you can get pregnant standing up in a hallway” and yes, she “had to get married.” One may have the ideal of saving oneself for a committed relationship, but life has a way of changing plans.

    In everything else in life, people always say “plan for the worst, hope for the best” but this is the one major issue in life that they’re happy to say the opposite. It makes no sense to me.

    I’d note that my anecdotal experience is that the highest incidence of accidental/unplanned pregnancies I’ve seen has been in those raised in strict religious homes. It’s a weird dichotomy. At one point, I had 4 roommates in college. 3 of us got pregnant, and those were the Catholic girls who were taught BC is wrong. Of course, premarital sex is wrong, too, but somehow their brains decided that using BC meant they were sinning pre-meditatively, which made the sin worse. Go figure.

  23. cleo
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 15:46:03

    @txvoodoo:

    somehow their brains decided that using BC meant they were sinning pre-meditatively, which made the sin worse

    Yes. I’ve encountered that attitude too – most notably in my younger, Catholic cousin. When she was maybe 19 or 20, I asked her what kind of birth control she and her boyfriend were using. She said none, because BC is a sin. I was too flabbergasted to point out that sex outside of marriage is also a sin, but I did manage to give her a fistful of condoms and a safe sex talk.

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