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BMJ. 1991 Jan 19;302(6769):147.

Unintended pregnancies and the use of contraception: changes from 1984 to 1989.

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Institute for Social Studies in Medical Care, London.



A researcher randomly selected 100 birth registrations in each of 20 areas in England and Wales and sent a questionnaire to the mothers 6 months after birth to determine the 1989 proportion of unplanned pregnancies and contraceptive usage. She compared them with results from a similar survey in 1984. The 1984 and 1989 response rates stood at 79% and 76% respectively. The percentage of unplanned pregnancies between the 2 years rose significantly from 26.7%-31.3% (p.01). The proportion of these mothers who were using some form of contraception at the time of conception decreased only slightly in this period (70.5%- 69.1%). In both years, the mothers who had unintended pregnancies consisted basically of young single women or women with 2 or more children. Further, women who completed full time schooling 18 years were less likely to become pregnancy unintentionally. The percentage of mothers in the 20-24 year old group who had an unplanned pregnancy increased most significantly from 27.4%-44.4% (p.001). The percentage also increased, but less significantly, in the 25-30 year old group from 19.1-26.6% (p.01). In 1984, contraceptive usage rose significantly with age among mothers who had unintended pregnancies (p.001). For example, 37.9% of the teen mothers used a contraceptive at the time of conception while 87% of mothers 35 years did. A smaller proportion of newer mothers were taking oral contraceptives (OCs) at contraception in 1989 (10.4%) than in 1984 (12.9%), but the proportion of them who experienced an unintended pregnancy increased from 47.9% to 68.2%. 81% of 20-24 years old and 68./9% of 25-29 year olds on OCs become pregnant unintentionally in 2989 whereas, in 1984, 47.8% and 44.7% respectively did so. These results demonstrate that contraceptive users often have insufficient knowledge about contraceptives.

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