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Unintended Pregnancy More Common Among Military Women

Female Marines on patrol
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Above: Female Marines on patrol

The researcher behind a recent study that found military women have a higher rate of unintended pregnancy is calling for review of how the military provides reproductive care for its female members.

Dr. Vinita Goyal of Women & Infants Hospital at Brown University says women in the military use contraception at a much lower rate than the general population, leading to a higher rate of unintended pregnancy:

"Because of its potentially high burden for military women as well as the impact on military operations, prevention of unintended pregnancy is one reproductive health issue of particular importance.

"For the women, who face barriers to early prenatal care and abortion services in the military, unwanted pregnancy restricts their career achievement potential and limits their earning capacity."

Goyal's research shows although almost 80 percent of active-duty female service members reported being sexually active, a full 40 percent did not use contraception.

A 2005 Department of Defense survey found more than 16 percent of women in the military reported an unintended pregnancy within the previous year. That's compared to 7 percent in the general population.

Goyal is recommending health care providers who serve military women do a better job of education themselves and their patients about contraception:

"Understanding and addressing the needs of these women will give health care providers an opportunity to improve reproductive health care as well as pregnancy outcomes for this population."

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