“It’s Not Something You Have to Be Scared About”: Attitudes towards Pregnancy and Fertility Among Canadian Aboriginal Young People
by Karen M. Devries and Caroline J. Free
Aboriginal young people in Canada are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and become pregnant compared to other young Canadians. Unprotected sex is the main cause of pregnancy and many STIs.
In order to improve sex education programs, the researchers interviewed 30 Aboriginal young people in British Columbia in both rural and urban settings. This study presents the young people’s views on planning for pregnancy, having children, and how these relate to condom and contraception use.
- Perceived community norms: Participants perceived some negative stigma around adolescent childbearing, but believed that their family would still welcome and help care for new children.
- Desire for pregnancy: Most participants wanted to delay pregnancy until they were ready for the responsibility. Ideas around “readiness” included leaving adolescence, finishing high school, having an income, or having a stable emotional environment, e.g., being in a serious relationship.
- Condom and contraception use: In short-term relationships, condom use was consistent. In longer, more serious relationships, contraception use was mixed. Some young people decided to stop using condoms without substituting alternatives, voicing concerns about the safety and efficacy of hormonal birth control. In these cases, the possibility of having children was accepted although not actively desired.
- Role of family: Many participants lived without both parents. There were mixed reactions to these disrupted family relationships; some participants wanted to be more responsible than their parents and provide a stable environment for their children, and some described risky sexual behaviour in terms of both health and emotional well-being.
Although adolescent pregnancy was not viewed as desirable, many participants perceived positive norms or feelings of “readiness” toward having children. This could create situations where unprotected sex was likely to occur. Sex education must take into account these beliefs and behaviours to improve success and reduce rates of STIs.