Context: The timing of a first family planning visit relative to first intercourse can affect the likelihood of an early unintended pregnancy. Methods: Nationally representative data from the 1982, 1988 and 1995 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth were used to examine changes in the timing of first family planning visits and to explore the degree to which young women are now more likely than in the past to practice contraception independently of making a visit to a provider. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate how background variables, visit status and the initiation of contraceptive use affected risks of unintended pregnancy in the four years preceding each survey. Results: The proportion of women who waited a month or more after their first intercourse to see a provider grew slightly between 1978 and 1995, from 76% to 79%; women waited a median of 22 months after first intercourse in 1991-1995. Any contraceptive use at first intercourse increased among both women who delayed a first visit (from 51% to 75%) and among those whose first visit occurred before their first intercourse or within the same month (from 61% to 91%). Cox proportional hazards analysis suggests that the protective effect of a first family planning visit decreased over the period studied, due in part to the increase in early contraceptive use. Conclusions: The importance of the first family planning visit appears to be declining, as sexually active young women who delay their first visit increasingly do so because they are already using a provider-independent method (primarily the condom). Thus, a multifaceted approach to providing family planning may now be needed, in which independent method use and visits to providers both play a role.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health