18 December 2013

Human parthenogenesis, according to pregnant women

Christmas is the best time of the year to tell people about parthenogenesis, seeing that a story of human parthenogenesis forms a large part of Christmas tradition.

The British Medical Journal (or BMJ) has a new paper out that looks closely at reports of parthenogenesis in humans. According to Herring and colleagues, of over 7,000 young women (about 12-18) surveyed, about 0.8% of women reported pregnancy before they reported having sex.

As far as I can tell, they did not ask the women outright if they believed they got pregnant without the help of a man. They just extrapolated from whether women reported having had sex, whether they reported being pregnant, and comparing the dates. However, it seems likely that the women might have claimed virgin birth, given this interesting fact:

The virgins who reported pregnancies were more likely to have pledged chastity (30.5%) than the non-virgins who reported pregnancies (15.0%, P=0.01) or the other virgins (21.2%, P=0.007).

Also of note:

The virgins who reported pregnancy... were less likely to know how to use condoms than the non-virgins who reported pregnancy (79.6%, P=0.002).

The discussion mentions another fascinating group: the “born again virgins,” who reported having had sex early in the study, but reported themselves as virgins when surveyed again. This is actually much more common than virgin birth, accounting for about 3% of the women surveyed. This might be almost as miraculous as virgin birth.

I think there may be a few issues with self-reporting in this data set.

In addition to the interesting data, this paper also gets high points from me for referencing a Doctor Who episode in the introduction.


Herring AH, Attard SM, Gordon-Larsen P, Joyner WH, Halpern CT. 2013. Like a virgin (mother): analysis of data from a longitudinal, US population representative sample survey. BMJ 347 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7102

Related post

Human parthenogenesis?

External links

Claims of virgin births in U.S. near 1 percent: study
Christmas Miracle? One In 200 US Pregnancies Reportedly Involve Virgin Mothers

Top image from here.

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