Contraception Calling

Even though more than eight in 10 unmarried women 18-29 say they would be upset if they got pregnant at this time in their lives, nearly half (48%) say it is at least a little bit likely they will have unprotected sex in the next year; one in five say it is very likely, according to a new survey released today. 

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy teamed up with Cosmopolitan magazine to examine what women think about contraception.   The results of the survey are presented in the September issue of Cosmopolitan and in a new National Campaign publication, Contraception Calling. The nationally representative survey was conducted by TRU, a worldwide leader in research on teens and twenty-somethings.  This online survey was administered in March 2013 to more than 1,000 unmarried women, age 18-29, none of whom have had children, all of whom have had sex, and none of whom are trying to get pregnant.  Among the women who were surveyed:

  • Nearly everyone in this group (99%) has used some method of contraception to prevent pregnancy at some point in their lives. 
  • Many of those 18-29 (44%)—and 56% of those age 18-22—say they are often nervous they are pregnant and relieved when they learn that they are not.
  • Fully one-third (33%) are uneasy about what taking the pill might mean for their fertility in the future.  One in four (26%) are scared by the medical warnings they see in TV commercials, and 17% say they’re uncomfortable taking birth control pills because doing so is “unnatural.” 
  • Proper usage of the pill also presents challenges.  One in four (25%) women in the survey say that having to take something every day “doesn’t work for me,” and 38% say that that when they discuss birth control with friends, forgetting to take the pill is one of the things they talk about. 
  • Even though the most effective contraceptive methods—and those least prone to error like the IUD and implants—are not the most popular, efficacy is paramount to the women surveyed.  More than three out of four (77%) say one of the most important factors in choosing a method is how effective it is.  Affordability is also key—nearly half (49%) cited cost as an important variable in deciding what method to use.  In addition, nearly half (47%) consider ease of use one of the most important factors in choosing a method of birth control.
  • One in three (30%) have used emergency contraception.
  • More than eight in 10 (82%) of those who have had a pregnancy scare say that experience made them more careful about using protection and more than half (54%) say it made them switch to a more reliable method of birth control;
  • And yet 78% say they are totally satisfied with their current method of contraception.


Sex Without Protection: Why?

Some of the reasons women say they are having unprotected sex seem to stem from “in the moment” decisions, including:

  • One-third say they “just weren’t thinking” (32%) or they didn’t plan on having sex so they weren’t prepared (30%) to use birth control. 
  • One in five (20%) were drunk or high at the time. 
  • Nearly half (44%) say they’ve trusted a partner to pull out. 
  • Nearly four in 10 (39%) say that sex just feels better without protection.
  • One in four (24%) say they’ve let a partner talk them out of using protection.
  • One in five (20%) say they’ve had unprotected sex because their partner didn’t want to use anything. 
  • About one in 10 (13%) say that not using condoms “was a way for us to show that our relationship was more serious.”

2013, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies

           1776 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20036

            Ph: (202) 478-8500, fax: (202) 478-8588, CFC #10496