Pregnancy Intentions, Contraceptive Knowledge And Educational Aspirations Among Community College Students

Marta A. Cabral, University of California, San Francisco Rosalyn Schroeder, University of California, San Francisco Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, Princeton University Alison M. El Ayadi, University of California, San Francisco Aleka L. Gürel, University of California, San Francisco Janet Chang, San Jose City College Cynthia C. Harper, University of California, San Francisco

First published online:

| DOI: https://doi.org/10.1363/psrh.12081
Abstract / Summary

Community college students, representing more than one‐third of U.S. undergraduates, are a diverse population of young people motivated to seek higher education who are at elevated risk of unintended pregnancy. However, it is unknown how well prepared they are to prevent pregnancy and what they think about it in terms of their educational aspirations.


In‐depth interviews were conducted with 57 students aged 18–25, inclusive of all genders, in three community colleges in California in 2015. Content analysis was used to code data and identify themes.


All participants reported strong desires to prevent pregnancy in the next year and perceived their pregnancy risk as low, but many reported unprotected sex with opposite‐sex partners. Participants had specific timelines for completing their degrees and believed pregnancy would make that far more challenging, but would not ultimately prevent them from achieving their goals. Female students expressed concern about the risks of exacerbated poverty, housing instability and unachieved career goals. Participants had little knowledge of their pregnancy risks and of the health benefits, side effects or effectiveness of contraceptives. They held negative beliefs about hormonal contraception (including emergency contraception, IUDs and the implant), fearing long‐lasting effects and infertility. Gay or bisexual students shared concerns about contraceptives, although several were using methods for noncontraceptive reasons.


Many community college students not desiring pregnancy have limited awareness of pregnancy risk and prevention.

Author's Affiliations

Marta A. Cabral is research analyst; Rosalyn Schroeder is research, evaluation and data manager; Alison M. El Ayadi is assistant professor; Aleka L. Gürel is research analyst; and Cynthia C. Harper is professor—all at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco. Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong is associate professor, Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. Janet Chang is director, Student Health Services, San Jose City College, San Jose, CA.


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