Womens Health Issues. 2013 Jan;23(1):e47-53. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Dec 8

Misunderstanding the risk of conception from unprotected and protected sex

Biggs MA, Foster DG
Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco, Oakland, California, USA.
antonia.biggs@ucsf.edu

BACKGROUND: Recent research suggests that lack of knowledge about the risks of conception from engaging in unprotected and protected sex is associated with not using contraception. A deeper understanding of women's knowledge of the risk of conception and the factors associated with such knowledge is needed.

METHODS: Women with no history of abortion (n=1,472) at 13 family planning clinics were surveyed regarding their knowledge of the risk of conception from engaging in unprotected sex and while using condoms, oral contraceptive (OCs) pills, and intrauterine contraception (IUC).

FINDINGS: Very few women (8%) accurately estimated the risk of conception from engaging in one act of unprotected sex. About one quarter (26%) of women correctly rated the effectiveness of condoms and over half correctly rated the effectiveness of OCs (61%) and IUCs (56%). Women who were African American or Latina, living in poverty, and had less than a college degree were more likely to overestimate the failure rate of condoms, OCS, and IUCs. Other factors associated with underestimating the effectiveness of these methods were being pregnant or seeking pregnancy and having recently engaged in unprotected sex. Women were significantly more likely to accurately assess the effectiveness of the method they planned to use.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that improving women's knowledge of the effectiveness of various methods may encourage more effective and consistent contraceptive use.