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J Fam Pract. 2009 Apr;58(4):E1-5.

Why women risk unintended pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.



To reduce unintended pregnancy, it is necessary to understand why women have unprotected intercourse when they do not desire pregnancy.


We devised a survey of 42 potential reasons why women have unprotected intercourse based on the responses of a focus group we had previously convened. We administered the survey to women between the ages of 18 and 39 years who were visiting primary care clinics and were not trying to get pregnant.


Of the 151 respondents, 84 (56%) were having unprotected intercourse. Women gave an average of 9 reasons for having unprotected intercourse. The most common reasons fell into 3 categories: lack of thought/preparation (87% of respondents), being in a long-term or strong relationship (70%), and concerns about side effects of contraception (80%). Eighty-three of the 84 women (99%) chose at least 1 of these categories.


Basing survey questions on focus group responses provided important insights into the reasons women risk unintended pregnancy. A deeper understanding of this issue is critical to reducing unintended pregnancy.

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