Public Knowledge and Perceptions About Unplanned Pregnancy and Contraception in Three Countries

Suzanne Delbanco Janet Lundy Tina Hoff Molly Parker Mark D. Smith

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Abstract / Summary

A 1994-1995 survey of men and women aged 18-44 in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands revealed considerable differences in public knowledge and perceptions about unplanned pregnancy and contraception. The proportion who believe that unplanned pregnancy is a "very big problem" is 60% in the United States, 36% in Canada and 6% in the Netherlands. Americans are more likely than their Canadian or Dutch counterparts to cite societal problems as significant factors in the rate of unplanned pregnancy; higher proportions of Americans also cite the cost of contraceptives (52% vs. 46% of Canadians and 34% of Dutch men and women) and an inability to obtain methods (66%, 51% and 33%, respectively). In all three countries, adults are generally well informed about the relative effectiveness of commonly used contraceptives, but Americans are more skeptical about method safety and effectiveness. For example, 17% think the pill is "very safe," compared with 21% of Canadians and 40% of the Dutch; and whereas 64% of Americans consider the pill "very effective," 73% of Canadians and 90% of Dutch men and women give it this rating. Health care professionals are the most frequently cited source of contraceptive information, but only 51-63% of adults have ever discussed contraception with such a practitioner.

(Family Planning Perspectives, 29:70-75, 1997)

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