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    5 Inconvenient Truths about Sex and Parenthood

    “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage.” Though this elementary school earworm may have been the norm for generations past, it could use a modern remix: Over 40% of all children are now born outside of marriage, and the majority of births to unmarried young women under 30 are unplanned. While there will always be young couples “sitting in a tree,” Brookings expert Isabel Sawhill thinks it’s time to “change the default” from childbearing by chance to childbearing by choice. In her new book, Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage, she explains how we can make this shift, while exposing some pretty harsh truths about sex and parenthood in the process. Here are a few:


    1. Even if you’re using condoms, you still might get pregnant.


    While condoms are great at protecting you from STIs, they’re not guaranteed protection from potential parenthood. In fact, the likelihood of getting pregnant while using condoms alone over the course of five years is 63%. With the pill, it drops to 38%. If these stats seem scary, fear not: by using long-acting reversible contraception (aka “LARCs”) like an IUD or an implant, this percentage drops to only 2%. These contraception superstars are safe, and they make it easy to avoid pregnancy without the hassles (and room for error) of other forms of birth control.

    2. An early unplanned birth can affect a child’s success later in life.


    An unintended pregnancy outside of marriage won’t just affect your life: it can have serious implications for a child’s future. Children born to unmarried parents are more likely to fare worse when it comes to their health and social and emotional development, and may face greater challenges at school and in the labor market.

    3. Just because you live together doesn’t mean you’re ready to have a child.


    About half of unmarried couples living together at the time of their child’s birth will have split up by the time the child is five years old, and may go on to have children with a new partner. Living together isn’t the same as being married—and definitely doesn’t mean you’re ready for parenthood.

    4. Later marriages are more stable than early ones, so waiting is a good idea.


    If you like it you can certainly put a ring on it, but waiting a while before you head to the altar could pay off: later-in-life unions are associated with better marriages, are more likely to last, and can lead to a more stable life for you and your children.

    5. Kids aren’t cheap.


    A bundle of joy will cost you a bundle of money: When you take into consideration potential earnings lost while taking time off from work, a child can cost a typical couple around $1 million. All that money spent on kids can mean sacrificing importance expenses like school, and of course fun activities like that Ke$ha concert you’ve been dying to go to.


    The lesson here? There are some pretty harsh realities associated with sex and parenthood, but by waiting to have kids until you know you’re ready to be a parent, you can fully take advantage of all the joys (and better navigate the stresses!) associated with childrearing.

    Want to make sure your tiny tot arrives only when you’re ready? Using highly effective contraception like the (nearly fool-proof) LARCs we mentioned earlier can help couples decide exactly if and when they’re ready to head down the road to parenthood.

    Learn more and read an excerpt from Isabel Sawhill’s book at

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