How Can the U.S. Minimize Unintentional Pregnancy Rates?

The percentage of unintended pregnancies in the United States make up almost half of all pregnancies. Sexually active individuals can prevent pregnancy, but not all have the means to do so. Pregnancy is a difficult experience and women should not be forced to go through the mental and physical issues that pregnancy causes unless they have that desire. Unintended pregnancy rates decrease with the use of contraception and proper sex education for teenagers in high school. By using these methods, the United States unintended pregnancy rates will decrease.

In the United States 45% of pregnancies are unintended, and 75% of those unintended pregnancies are teen pregnancies. Women who become unexpectedly pregnant are faced with overwhelming decisions. These women essentially have three options — give birth and keep the baby, give birth and give the baby up for adoption, or have an abortion — all of which can result in major emotional and physical trauma. The U.S. has a high rate of unintended pregnancies that negatively impact women physically and mentally, which can be corrected by providing women with accessible birth control and proper sex education.

Upon accidental conception of a child, the woman is required to make a difficult decision that could take a mental and/or physical toll on the woman. If the woman chooses to follow through with the pregnancy, whether or not she decides to keep the baby, she will potentially face harsh physical side effects and symptoms such as fatigue, cramping, nausea, etc., and, during pregnancy, 20% of women suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Felix Torres explains that 1 in 7 pregnant women experience peripartum (formerly postpartum) depression, which is defined as depression during and after a pregnancy. Though not all women experience these things, pregnancy can cause some women to endure physical and mental problems during and after the pregnancy. After giving birth to a child, a woman has two options: she can keep the child or give the child up for adoption. Keeping and raising a child can be difficult, not only mentally but, financially, as well. Children need constant care, clothing, food, a roof to live under, etc. Giving a child up for adoption can also be a very emotional process for parents, but is, in many circumstances, the most logical option. And lastly, the third option for women who become unexpectedly pregnant: abortion. If a woman is unable or unwilling to carry a child through a term of pregnancy, she is able to get an abortion, which is a heartbreaking decision that no woman makes easily and that no woman should ever have to make, but in the circumstance that a woman becomes unintentionally pregnant, she does not have many options and must think about what is best for herself.

The U.S. does not provide women and men with the proper tools and education to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Men and women need to receive proper sex education. Sex education in high schools is only mandatory in 30 states in the U.S. As stated previously, 75% of unintended pregnancies are teen pregnancies, but both current teenagers and teenagers who have become adults are impacted by lack of sex education in schools. Without proper sex education, sexually active teen and adult women, who are unaware of the specifics in the process of conception, are at risk of becoming pregnant, more so than properly educated women.

Second, women need to have access to birth control. Low income areas have higher pregnancy rates due to the high price of birth control options. Many women do not have the means to access birth control, therefore, sexually active women unable to access birth control are more likely to get pregnant unexpectedly, in comparison to women who can access and afford birth control.

Unintentional conception of a child places a woman in a difficult position, but the issue is avoidable altogether. Women and men need to be thoroughly taught about sexual intercourse. Researchers at the University of Washington, under the direction of Dr. Pamela Kohler, found that “adolescents who receive comprehensive sex education are significantly less likely to become pregnant than adolescents who receive…no formal sex education.” Students given acceptable sex education are less likely to become pregnant in their teen years and are less likely to become adults who unexpectedly get pregnant due to lack of knowledge about sexual intercourse. The United States needs to make sex education in schools mandatory in all fifty states.

In addition to mandatory sex education in schools, women need to be provided with birth control. Many women cannot afford birth control or are unable to access contraceptives, making unintentional pregnancies more common. In an analysis of the effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which makes health care more affordable and accessible, on low income areas, doctors found that birth rates in low income areas decreased after being given access to contraceptives. Women were able to access and afford birth control after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law because of contraception insurance, and birth rates decreased in those low income areas where women were struggling to afford contraceptives. However, birth control is still not available to teens without parental approval and many adult women, despite the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, due to the refusal policies put in place by the Trump-Pence administration. There is no defense for these women seeking birth control, and in order to decrease incidental pregnancies, they need access to contraceptives.

The United States needs to provide women with birth control and educate men and women about sexual intercourse in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. A woman’s mental and physical health can be put at risk during a pregnancy and after birth, and women should not be forced to endure the mental and physical trauma if they do not have the desire to do so. Allowing women the tools and knowledge to prevent conception is the best way to protect women who do not have the desire to become pregnant.