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Contraception. 2012 Jan;85(1):78-82. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2011.04.011. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

A pilot study of women's knowledge of pregnancy health risks: implications for contraception.

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  • 1Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA, USA.



This study was performed to assess women's knowledge of the health risks of pregnancy and how their assessment of pregnancy risks compared to their estimates of the risks of oral contraceptives.


A survey, which asked both open-ended and specific questions about the health benefits and risks of pregnancy, was administered verbally on a one-on-one basis to nonpregnant, English-speaking, reproductive-age women.


Of the 248 women who provided information for analysis, over one quarter of women could not correctly name any health risk associated with pregnancy. When shown a list of potential health risks, only 13.3% correctly identified all the health problems that increased in pregnancy. Only 49% knew that risks of venous thromboembolism (VTE), diabetes and hypertension increase in pregnancy; 30.6% did not know that VTE risk increases. Over 75% of respondents rated birth control pills as more hazardous to a woman's health than pregnancy. The greater the women's education, the more likely she was to believe that oral contraceptives are riskier than pregnancy.


This pilot project clearly demonstrates a need to assess women's understanding of the health hazards of pregnancy on a national level. Underestimation of pregnancy risks can lead to contraceptive method discontinuation, can decrease motivation to seek preconceptional care and can lead to greater medicolegal liability for providers of obstetrical care.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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