Fifty Percent of Women Have Never Done WHAT?

reproductivehealthWe moms have done some pretty incredible things, not the least of which is growing another human being inside of our bodies.

So why is it that we know so very little about how exactly that happens?

A new study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine has uncovered just how uninformed many women are about their reproductive health.

Consider these startling findings from the survey of 1,000 reproductive-age women:

  • 50% had never discussed their reproductive health with a medical provider.
  • 30% either never visited their reproductive health provider or did so less than once a year.
  • 50% didn’t know that vitamins with folic acid are recommended to prevent birth defects.
  • A quarter didn’t know that STDs, obesity, smoking, and irregular periods can have a negative impact on fertility.
  • 20% were unaware that your age can affect your reproductive success.

What’s more, many of the women exhibited a basic misunderstanding of how conception works:

  • 50% said they believed having sex several times per day would increase the chances of conception.
  • Only 1 in 10 women knew that sex should occur before ovulation (not after) to increase the chances of conception.
  • A whopping 40% said they believed their ovaries continue to produce new eggs throughout their reproductive years. (There is some new research challenging the traditionally held belief that we are born with all the eggs we’re ever going to have, but still.)

Considering how monumental giving birth is—and how affected we are by our reproductive systems even if we never have biological children—it’s amazing that baby-making is still such an enigma to most of us.

Why is that?

Is it because most of us were taught not to talk about sex or our nether regions, so we’re still a little squeamish about it?

Is it because we think we don’t need the information, that we can carry on just fine without it?

Is it because the system still fails to give women’s reproductive health the weight it deserves?

Whatever the reason, here are a few ways you can make sure you’re not in the dark about the baby-making parts of your body.

1. Get thee to the doctor.

If you haven’t yet found an OB-GYN you’re truly comfortable talking to, keep looking! It’s so important to have a medical provider you trust and are willing to see regularly.

2. Educate yourself.

The information is out there, you just need to take (find?) the time to learn it. Our Bodies, Ourselves has long been a trusted source of credible info on all things women’s health and sexuality.

3. Share your knowledge.

The sex ed your kids receive in school deals mostly with the pressing issues of puberty and safe sex, not reproductive health and fertility. That means it’s up to parents to encourage their children to learn about it (when the time is right, of course).

4. Get involved.

There are some great organizations advocating for greater awareness and stronger policies surrounding women’s reproductive health, including the National Women’s Health Resource Center. But they can’t accomplish their goals without the support of the millions of us affected by these issues each and every day.

Why do you think so many women are ill-informed when it comes to conception and reproduction?

image via Kurhan on

15 responses to “Fifty Percent of Women Have Never Done WHAT?”

  1. Here are a few other possible ressons…

    1. Sexual abuse of any form can distance a female from her body and its care.

    2. Sex ed in schools and how it’s presented (or not).

    3. Early sexual activity by oneself, peers, etc. or the response to it. Some don’t engage in it, but the perceptions are huge.

    4. The portrayl of all things sexual in the media vs. what one believes vs. religion vs. family culture vs. … (any 1 vs. another or more with options interchangeable. )

  2. Also age and experience. I certainly know more now than I did when I was 18. I think I’d like to see the numbers broken down into smaller age groups than just “of reproductive age.” There’s a huge difference between 16 and 30. Which isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be learning early. But it may just take some time and life experience to bridge the gap between learning, and the understanding that comes with maturity and a growing comfortableness with our own bodies and the confidence to talk about them. PS I’m still not convinced that having sex several times a day doesn’t help a little when you’re trying to get pregnant. : )

    • Good point, Jill! Age and experience are really significant factors to consider in all of these stats. Thanks for pointing that out. Oh, and considering your second little one is almost here, I say you’re right on how to get pregnant. 🙂

  3. I didn’t know that sex should be before ovulation not after until I was trying to get pregnant and was trying to find as much information as possible. As Jill said, I think age and maturity comes into play…we become more comfortable with learning about our bodies over time.

  4. Those statistics are frightening. I think many women learn from their mothers – my mom had an annual exam so I did too, once I was old enough. And my daughter is not thrilled about going, but she will have her first visit while she’s still under my roof. I want her to see that while it’s not a day at the park, it’s vital to her health.

  5. So interesting. I always thought I was SO informed, but the truth is, when it came time to having my second child (my first wasn’t planned), I knew NOTHING! Seriously. I had to buy a book – “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” It was wonderful, actually. I learned so much.

  6. It’s quite amazing to learn that so many women don’t know the critical and intimate details of their own bodies.

  7. In my generation, moms didn’t ‘talk’ to their daughters about these things. It was taboo… Hence the reason so many women have no clue. Heck, my mother-in-law survived Stage 3 breast cancer, and she STILL doesn’t go to the gynecologist!

  8. Wow, I knew the education on this subject was bad but this is really eye-opening. Happy to say I don’t fit into most of these categories but definitely gave me some things to think about!

  9. This is such an eye-opener! I was well-informed before having my baby, but I must admit that I’ve never been for a check-up for a long time. Thanks for writing about this. I’m going to pass it on!

  10. I think shaming has so much to do with the unwillingness women have toward asking questions about their bodies. Women are so caught between a rock and a hard place regarding monthly flow, being seuxally ‘on’ all the time (when we’re cyclical creatures), being too big or little in whatever part, etc….

    Thanks for another great post, Katie

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