A fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of sex and the function of birth control appears to underlie the country's remarkable rate of unwanted pregnancies.
Thirty-seven percent of babies born in the U.S. are the result of unplanned pregnancies. The National Survey of Family Growth, released this week by the CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics, suggests a number of possibilities for why this is, all of which merit further attention. But the leading reason that women eschewed birth control? They "did not think they would get pregnant."
Because the survey looks only at unintended births -- and not unintended pregnancies that ended in miscarriage or abortion -- this means that there are 290,000 babies born each year to mothers who believed their coming into existence was a statistical improbability. Other data has indicated that 60 percent of women who gave birth to unplanned babies had not used contraception when they became pregnant; the survey indicates that a majority of them must misunderstand either the connection between sex and childbirth or how strongly correlated the two actually are, seeing pregnancy instead as an "it can't happen to me" scenario.
In addition to looking at motivation, the survey also used alternative measures that sought to quantify women's emotional responses to becoming pregnant. Predictably, the results show a more or less steady decline in happiness over the news of a pregnancy when compared to how planned it was.