"Are they still having sex?" STI's and unintended pregnancy among mid-life women

J Women Aging. 2005;17(3):41-55. doi: 10.1300/J074v17n03_04.


Research has shown that women remain sexually active throughout mid-life and into the post-menopausal years. Recent data reveal that significant numbers of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and unintended pregnancies occur among mid-life women. Data on STI prevalence indicate several STIs have relatively high rates among women over age 30, including HIV and HSV-2. Racial/ethnic disparities in STI prevalence between mid-life African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian women have also been noted. Data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth reveal 51% of pregnancies among women 40 and older are unintended. Both STIs and unintended pregnancy can result in serious health consequences for mid-life women. STIs can result in pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy can result in increased morbidity and mortality to the woman and the fetus. Mid-life women are also highly likely to go through relationship transitions (e.g., separation, divorce) and the subsequent initiation of new sexual relationships. As a result, these women are at elevated risk of STIs and unintended pregnancy. Despite these realities, there is a lack of programs addressing these two health issues among mid-life women and the unique life circumstances of women at this stage of life. The authors assert there is a compelling need for interventions to reduce STIs and unintended pregnancy in this population of women, review the literature regarding STIs and unintended pregnancy in mid-life women, identify gaps in current resources, and make recommendations for health care practice and future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Coitus* / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted* / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Prevention / standards*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Education / standards
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*