Does Religion Affect Perception of Pregnancy Timing among Women Using Contraception?

Abstract

Background

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Unintended pregnancy refers to a mistimed or unwanted pregnancy. Unwanted and mistimed pregnancies are often distinguished from each other because of the negative social connotations and poorer health outcomes associated with unwanted pregnancies. However, mistimed pregnancies also pose significant economic, societal, and health burdens that necessitate enhanced risk factor identification and prevention efforts.

Purpose

Religion and religious practices are important to consider as potential risk factors for mistimed pregnancy as over 70% of Americans identify as religious. However, little research exists on the potential religious factors-mistimed pregnancy association. The purpose of this study was to evaluate this association among women using contraception in the U.S.

Methods

This analysis used National Survey of Family Growth data. Women (n = 2841) self-reported measures of religion, religiosity and pregnancy timing. Logistic regression was used to obtain odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals.

Results

After adjustment, women who reported currently being Catholic, Protestant, or another religion had statistically significant increased odds of mistimed pregnancy compared to women with no current religious affiliation (Catholic OR = 2.31, Protestant OR = 1.41, Other OR = 2.58). Women who reported that religion was very important or somewhat important had statistically significant increased odds of mistimed pregnancy (Very Important OR = 1.82, Somewhat Important OR = 1.60). More frequent service attendance was associated with statistically significant decreased odds of mistimed pregnancy. Specifically, women who reported attending services 2–3 times a month or 1 or more times per week had nearly half the odds of mistimed pregnancy compared to women who never attended services (OR = 0.54 and OR = 0.51).

Conclusions and Implications

This study provides insight into the interrelationship of religion as a sociocultural risk factor for mistimed pregnancy and found that while religiously active women had increased odds of mistimed pregnancy, frequency of service attendance was a protective factor against mistimed pregnancy. Given that approximately half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, additional studies are needed to further understand cultural mechanisms that may be important risk factors of unintended pregnancy, and to confirm this study’s findings.

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Correspondence to Ryan Siebens.

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Langley, R., Bably, M., Siebens, R. et al. Does Religion Affect Perception of Pregnancy Timing among Women Using Contraception?. Rev Relig Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-021-00444-3

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Keywords

  • Mistimed pregnancy
  • Contraception
  • Religion
  • Religiosity
  • Unintended pregnancy