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Researchers study US virgin births

20 December 2013

MUSEO DEL CONVENTO DI SAN MARCO

Biblical announcement: the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary, in Fra Angelico's fresco depicting the Annunciation, in St Mark's convent, Florence 

Biblical announcement: the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary, in Fra Angelico's fresco depicting the Annunciation, in St Mark's convent, Florence&nb...

THE Virgin birth in the Gospels was miraculous, but research published this week in the British Medical Journal suggests that modern reported virginal conceptions might have less supernatural causes.

A study of 7870 women in the United States between 1995 and 2009, tracking them between adolescence and adulthood, found that 45 (0.5 per cent) of those surveyed reported at least one virgin pregnancy. They had not used assisted reproduction. This phenomenon was more common among women who had signed chastity pledges, or whose parents had engaged in less communication with their children about sex and birth control.

Those who reported virgin pregnancies were twice as likely (30.5 per cent) to have pledged chastity than non-virgins who reported more conventional pregnancies (15 per cent).

More than a quarter of the parents of women who reported virgin pregnancies (27.7 per cent) said that they had "inadequate knowledge to discuss sex and birth control", compared with 5.2 per cent of the parents of non-virgins who reported pregnancies.

The researchers, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and led by Professor Amy Herring, note that "virgin births . . . have been documented in multiple animals, including pit vipers, boa constrictors, sharks, and Komodo dragons".

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