In discussions with 300 pregnant adolescents, 42 percent expressed fears of not being able to get pregnant. This is remarkable, say doctors from Rhode Island.
“Many programs aimed at decreasing rates of teenage pregnancy are built on the assumption that teenagers wish to avoid pregnancy,” write Dr. Emily White, from Women and Infants’ Hospital in Providence, and co-investigators in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“More studies are needed to further address where this fear comes from, the extent of it, and how it influences choices adolescents make,” they note. “If a teenager fears that she cannot conceive, she may be inclined not to use contraception to test her fertility.”
To White and colleagues’ surprise, younger teenage girls (between 12 and 15 years of age) were just as likely as older girls (16 to 20 years old) to express fear of not being able to conceive. Exposure to popular media, they say, may be one reason, noting that, in one recent study, teenagers named talk shows as their source of information about fertility.
Reasons often cited for fertility fears among the girls surveyed were “very practical,” White and colleagues point out. These included having frequent unprotected sex and not getting pregnant, and having a family member who had struggled with infertility.
“These reasons,” the authors say, “are consistent with our finding that teenagers with a fear of not being able to conceive have been sexually active for a longer period of time than those who did not express this fear.”
This survey, White and colleagues say, is one of only a handful that have looked at adolescents’ fears of not being able to get pregnant and the potential impact these fears have on their decision to practice birth control.
SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, December 2006.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.