Data from an urban obstetrics clinic on 291 unmarried women with a current unplanned pregnancy show that women with only one partner in the past year are older and are more likely to use the most effective contraceptive methods than are women who have more than one partner. Women with only one partner are also more likely to be solely responsible for decision-making about the choice of contraceptive methods, and are not as likely to use drugs in conjunction with sex. However, women with one partner are also less likely than others to use condoms or to protect in some other way against sexually transmitted diseases or the human immunodeficiency virus.
PIP: Interviews with 291 unmarried, low-income women who initiated prenatal care at the Johns Hopkins Hospital obstetric clinic between december 1989 and September 1990 revealed significant differences in contraceptive use and sexual behaviors related to the number of sexual partners in the previous 12 months. The majority of subjects were black (90%) and in the 18-24 year age group (70%). 75% reported having had only 1 sexual partner in the year preceding the interview. Among these women, 32% had used the pill at some time during the period, 16% used condoms, and 44% had used no contraception. Women with more than 1 partner in the preceding year were less likely than their monogamous counterparts to report use of an effective contraceptive method. Oral contraceptive used declined to 29% among those with 2 partners and to 9% among those with 3 or more partners, while condom use increased to 26% among women with 2 partners and to 33% among those with 3 or more partners. Contraceptive nonuse was 45% in the former and 54% in the latter group. Overall, 39% of respondents indicated that both partners shared equally in decisions about contraceptive use. Joint decision making was more common (48%) among condom user than pill users (39%). Women with 2 or more partners were significantly more likely than their monogamous counterparts to have used drugs in conjunction with sex and to have had a bisexual partner. On the other hand, women with multiple partners were 3.2 times more likely to have used protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Other factors associated with safe sex practices included age under 25 years, higher educational attainment, and no discussions with partners about human immunodeficiency virus. However, even among women with multiple partners, 73% were having unprotected intercourse the majority of time, as were 81% of monogamous women, indicating an urgent need for family planning and sexually transmitted disease education among both groups.