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One Percent of U.S. Births Claim to be Virgin Births

Update Date: Dec 18, 2013 11:16 AM EST

The concept of a virgin birth dates all the way back to Virgin Mary. Despite how rare Virgin Mary is, a new study found that nearly one percent of women who give birth in the United States claim that they were virgins. These claims, based solely of self-reports, suggest that fallible memory, beliefs and wishes might be at play.

For this study, the researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had analyzed interviews from 7,870 females ranging from the ages of 15 to 28. There were a total of 5,340 pregnancies. Out of these pregnancies, 0.8 percent of them were supposedly virgin births. This meant that 45 of these pregnancies occurred without the help of a man. The researchers did not include pregnancies that came from in vitro fertilization or another other kinds of assisted reproductive technology.

"Our first thought was that we had made a programming error," said study researcher Amy Herring, a professor of biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The researchers noted that of the 45 women and girls who claimed to be virgins when they gave birth, 31 percent of them stated that they had signed chastity pledges, which represent a promise that they will not have sex until after they marry. In the group of non-virgins who became pregnant, 15 percent of them had also signed chastity pledges. Overall, all 45 virgins, with 36 of them successfully giving birth, were more likely to state that their parents either never or rarely talked about sex and/or birth control. Around 28 percent of these virgins' mothers reported that they themselves did not have enough information to talk about sex and contraception. For the non-virgin females' parents, only five percent of them stated that they lacked sexual education information.

The data had come from the long-running National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The girls were between the ages of 12 and 18 when they first entered the study during the 1994 to 1995 school year. Over the course of 14 years, the participants were interviewed regarding their health and behavior using the computer.

The study was published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.

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