37 Percent of U.S. Babies Are “a Surprise”

Originally published on July 24, 2012, on bedsider.org.

New data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tell us that 37 percent of all babies born to 15-44-year-old women between 2006 and 2010 were, ahem, a surprise. And of course that doesn’t account for unintended pregnancies that ended in miscarriage or abortion.

There was lots of useful information in the report (you can download it and nerd out if you’re so inclined), but what really stood out to us was the responses women gave about why they weren’t using contraception when they conceived. The number one reason women gave, to the tune of 36 percent of them, was “I didn’t think I could get pregnant.” To that, we say YES. YOU. CAN.

The next most popular reason women gave was not minding if they got pregnant (23 percent), followed by not expecting to have sex (17 percent). Fourteen percent of women said they weren’t using birth control when they got pregnant because they were worried about the side effects—allow us to note here that pregnancy itself has plenty of side effects (and we’re not even talking about giving birth to/raising a baby you didn’t plan for). The last 13 percent of respondents said their male partners either didn’t want to use birth control or didn’t want them to use it. (If you or someone you know is in that situation, remember that there are some birth control methods no one else needs to know about.)

A few more noteworthy points:

  • Younger women were much more likely than older women to have an unintended pregnancy—77 percent of pregnancies among 15-19-year-olds were unintended, 50 percent were among 20-24-year-olds, and 25 percent of pregnancies among 25-44-year-old women were unintended.
  • 23 percent of married women said their pregnancy was unintended in comparison to 67 percent of single women and 51 percent of cohabiting women.
  • Women with a college degree were much less likely to have an unintended pregnancy than women with less education.

The takeaway? There’s a good chance that you know some folks who aren’t using birth control and aren’t trying to get pregnant. Send ‘em over!

Birth Control is Green!
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Birth Control & Heart Attacks & Strokes — Oh My!

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Chloe R.
Chloe R.1 years ago


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin1 years ago

these stats aren't too surprising

Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Lori B.
Lori B.2 years ago

The IUD is awesome. I wish my insurance would cover it :(

dalila p.
dalila p.2 years ago

children should be MIRACLES not surprises. Keep in mind!

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

This is so wrong... This number is too high and our worst problem is HUMAN OVERPOPULATION! ;(

Christopher M.
Christopher M.2 years ago

A lady friend told me she didn't intend on having her second. I contrast that to my best friend who knows... how to rule out kids. I would never surprise a woman with a second, I am not sure if I can afford one.

Bruno Moreira
Bruno Moreira2 years ago


tiffany t.
tiffany t.2 years ago

I fall right into this article, I was 33, with the same person for 12 years, and above pic is the exact look on my face when I found out I was pregnant. Four years later,,,,, most days I feel like roller coaster ride, at the end of the day, watching my daughter sleep, I feel a love that cannot compare.

Hayley Cruze
Hayley C.2 years ago

Only 37%? Hmm...interesting.