Would it surprise you to learn that the average woman today has her first child before marriage? Far from the statistics of previous generations, single parenthood is becoming the new norm, according to a new publication by Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill. What used to be a symptom of divorce, lack of education or class status, it seems today that single parenting is mostly due to never having been married in the first place. In fact, Sawhill discloses that in 2010, 58% of first births to women with a high school diploma or some college were unmarried. Though teen pregnancy rates have dropped considerably, the 20-something women are now taking the lead in unplanned pregnancies, often going on to have additional children with different partners and adding more instability to their children’s lives.
To be clear, we’re not shaming single moms. At our practice, we’ve encountered several young women in that situation who are very dedicated, and we admire their perseverance and determination to create the best life they can for their child. That said, single parenting is difficult on both the mothers and children alike. The demands of raising a child are tough enough with two parents in the household, let alone flying it solo.
Upon reading these statistics, many people think to themselves “why not just go on birth control?”. Seems simple enough. The reality is that a lot of the popular birth control practices have surprisingly high failure rates, not because they aren’t effective, but because of negligence and non-compliance on the user’s part. However, there is still a relatively simple solution: long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). Two of the more common options for LARCs are IUD (intrauterine device), which can last up to 12 years, and implantable birth control, which can be used for up to 3 years.
Perhaps the biggest step we can take to help women make better choices is educating them and informing them about their options. An open, honest dialogue between young women and their physicians is a crucial part of this. We recognize the value in providing a safe environment, free from judgement, for all our patients so that they can receive the proper counseling and guidance that will keep them healthy, happy and in charge of their future and family planning.