Lifetime patterns of contraception and their relationship to unintended pregnancies

J. A. Rosenfeld, K. Everett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: For the past 30 years many effective methods of contraception have been available, yet unintended pregnancy rates still range from 30% to 50% in many populations. We examined patterns of women's contraceptive use throughout their lives and relate them to unintended pregnancy. METHODS: A total of 396 women aged 18 to 50 years chosen by convenience sampling from a family practice residency office were interviewed in a cross-sectional study about their history of using and changing contraception, and whether they believed they became pregnant while using a method of contraception. We analyzed the data for correlations and significance using chi-square and Student t tests. RESULTS: Most women had used both condoms and oral contraceptive pills, and tried an average of 3.54 methods during a lifetime. Two patterns of women's use of contraception emerged that describe 75% of the women. One third of the women - those who indicated a pattern of following their first method with a less effective method - are significantly more likely to have an unintended pregnancy while using contraception (odds ratio=1.4). The other group (50% of the entire sample) used increasingly effective methods and were less likely to have an unintended pregnancy. CONCLUSIONS: Pregnancy is an inherent natural consequence of sexual intercourse, even when using very effective contraceptive methods. By asking a few questions about a woman's history of contraceptive use, physicians may be able to determine those who are more likely to be at risk for an unintended pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-828
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Condoms
  • Contraceptives, oral
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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