Monday, January 13, 2014

On the incidence of virgin birth

Like a virgin (mother): analysis of data from a longitudinal, US population representative sample survey
BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 December 2013)


Objective: To estimate the incidence of self report of pregnancy without sexual intercourse (virgin pregnancy) and factors related to such reporting, in a population representative group of US adolescents and young adults.

Design: Longitudinal, population representative sample survey.

Setting: Nationally representative, multiethnic National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, United States.

Participants: 7870 women enrolled at wave I (1995) and completing the most recent wave of data collection (wave IV; 2008-09).

Main outcome measures: Self reports of pregnancy and birth without sexual intercourse.

Results: 45 women (0.5%) reported at least one virgin pregnancy unrelated to the use of assisted reproductive technology. Although it was rare for dates of sexual initiation and pregnancy consistent with virgin pregnancy to be reported, it was more common among women who signed chastity pledges or whose parents indicated lower levels of communication with their children about sex and birth control.

Conclusions: Around 0.5% of women consistently affirmed their status as virgins and did not use assisted reproductive technology, yet reported virgin births. Even with numerous enhancements and safeguards to optimize reporting accuracy, researchers may still face challenges in the collection and analysis of self reported data on potentially sensitive topics.


Measurement error is a wonderful thing!

Gated version here.

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