Sexual Orientation Disparities in Mistimed and Unwanted Pregnancy Among Adult Women

Bethany Everett, University of Utah Katherine F. McCabe, University of Illinois, Chicago Tonda L. Hughes, University of Illinois, Chicago

First published online:

| DOI: https://doi.org/10.1363/psrh.12032
Abstract / Summary

Many sexual minority women, regardless of sexual identity, engage in heterosexual behavior across the life course, which provides them opportunities to experience an unintended pregnancy. In addition, sexual minority women are more likely than others to report characteristics that may make them vulnerable to unintended pregnancy. Little research, however, has examined whether the risk of unintended pregnancy is elevated among these women.


Using data from the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth, logistic regression models were fitted to examine sexual orientation disparities in mistimed and unwanted pregnancies among 9,807 women aged 20–45; mixed-effects hazard models assessed disparities in the intention status of 5,238 pregnancies among these women by maternal sexual orientation.


Compared with heterosexual women reporting only male partners, heterosexual women who have sex with women had higher odds of reporting a mistimed pregnancy (odds ratio, 1.4), and bisexual women had higher odds of reporting an unwanted pregnancy (1.8). When compared with pregnancies reported by heterosexual women with only male partners, those reported by heterosexual women who have sex with women were more likely to be mistimed (hazard ratio, 1.7), and those reported by bisexual and lesbian women were more likely to be unwanted (1.7–4.4).


Compared with heterosexuals who have sex with men only, adult sexual minority women are at equal or greater risk of reporting an unintended pregnancy. More research addressing the reproductive health care needs of sexual minority women is needed to develop strategies to improve family planning for this population.

Author's Affiliations

Bethany G. Everett is assistant professor, Department of Sociology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Katharine F. McCabe is doctoral candidate, Department of Sociology; and at the time of writing, Tonda L. Hughes was professor, Department of Health Systems Science—both at the University of Illinois, Chicago.


The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.