Women Wrongly Believe They Can’t Get Pregnant

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More than half of unintended pregnancies in America happen to the 10 percent of women who are not using contraception. A new survey of 50 women seeking abortions from the Guttmacher Institute reveals the psychology behind not wanting to be pregnant but not doing anything to not get pregnant. Most participants believed they were at a low risk of pregnancy for a variety of reasons requiring various degrees of magical thinking.

The most common reason was “perceived invulnerability to pregnancy,” sometimes linked to “a larger sense of invincibility” (“Nothing bad ever seems to happen to me,” said one 18-year-old participant) and sometimes linked to earlier luck with unprotected sex. 

More than a third thought their contraceptive method was good enough, even if they had missed a few pills here and there. For another third, the risk of pregnancy simply did not weigh heavy on their minds, sometimes because they had other things to worry about — running away from home, using drugs, breaking up, the threat of violence. Others faced instability that made it harder to access birth control, like job (and health insurance) loss, moving, or divorce.

Yet another third of participants were convinced they or their partner were less fertile, for reasons ranging from iron deficiency to polycystic ovarian syndrome. One 18-year-old’s partner fed her this doozy:

“He told me he was sterile because when he was sponsored dirt biking and he had wrecked and apparently his wreck made him sterile in some way and they told him that he would get it back between 22 and 25.”

It always helps to tie your bogus reproductive-health theory back to your dirt-biking glory days.

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