Unintended pregnancy: Attitudes toward contraception of women obtaining abortions

Beth Elaine Whitted, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Forty-nine percent of pregnancies in the United States are unintended and significant numbers of pregnancies are unintended for women of all ages. One possible reason for the high rate is that while 85% of women at risk for an unintended pregnancy use contraception, negative attitudes about the method used make them poor contraceptors. Negative attitudes may prevent the remaining 15% of women from using any method of birth control. This study examined adult women's attitudes toward contraception and its use to see if attitudes correlate with unintended pregnancy. To obtain a sample of women experiencing unintended pregnancies, women obtaining therapeutic abortions were surveyed since almost all women obtaining therapeutic abortions are experiencing an unintended pregnancy. The study used a cross-sectional survey design and included 312 women obtaining abortions at the Planned Parenthood Surgical Services Clinic in Houston in the latter half of 1999. The responses revealed a lack of knowledge about the safety and effectiveness of contraception, particularly for methods other than oral contraceptives and condoms. Thirty-four percent of the participants were uncomfortable buying contraception. While 71% of the participants said their physician recommended their use of contraception, 17% were unsure and 35% did not talk to their physician about contraception on a regular basis. The attitudes of women using contraception were compared with those not using contraception and many differences were seen. Women not using contraception responded with more ‘unsure’ answers and believed contraception was more difficult to use. They felt planning ahead for the use of contraception interfered with the enjoyment of sex (p-value = 0.06). They were less likely to use contraception if their partner disapproved (p-value = 0.01) and more of them believed their church disapproved of contraception (p-value = 0.02). In comparison, women using contraception had negative attitudes about the safety of the pill (p-values = 0.01–0.08) and the effectiveness of the condom (p-value = 0.04). Therefore, the negative attitudes women using contraception had about contraception may interfere with their effective use of birth control. Those not using contraception were found to hold attitudes that may contribute to their non-use of contraception.

Subject Area

Public health|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Whitted, Beth Elaine, "Unintended pregnancy: Attitudes toward contraception of women obtaining abortions" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3027658.