Reducing disparities in unintended pregnancy with contraceptive education

Half of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, with disparities among adolescents and women of color. Compared with older women, sexually active teens are less likely to use contraception and more likely to take breaks or stop. Compared with white women, Black and Hispanic women are less likely to use contraception and more likely to use methods with higher risk of failure.

To address disparities in unintended pregnancy, we need more information about the relationships between women's contraceptive knowledge, method use, race/ethnicity and age. Investigators with the UCSF Bixby Center explored racial/ethnic and age group differences in women's knowledge and attitudes about contraception.

The researchers found that Hispanic women and teenagers had lower contraceptive awareness:

  • Hispanics and teenagers were less likely to know about the intrauterine device (IUD) compared with white women and young adults.
  • Hispanics and teenagers were less likely to know that a woman experiencing side effects could switch brands of oral contraceptive pills.
  • Hispanics born outside the United States had lower knowledge about contraceptives than U.S.-born Hispanics. For example, foreign-born Hispanics were less likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to have heard of the IUD or the vaginal ring.

Lower contraceptive knowledge among teenagers and Hispanics, particularly immigrants, suggests the importance of disseminating family planning information to these women as one way of addressing disparities in unintended pregnancy. Clinicians, public health advocates and policymakers should also address other potential causes of contraceptive disparities, including limited access to family planning care and low quality care.