Just in time for Christmas: a medical paper reported that nearly 1 percent of young women surveyed in a long-term study reported they had gotten pregnant through immaculate conception.

The study, titled “Like a Virgin (Mother)” stated its objective “to estimate the incidence of self report of pregnancy without sexual intercourse (virgin pregnancy).” Researchers at Chapel Hill tracked the health of 7,870 females between the ages of 15 and 28 for 14 years as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. When it came to pregnancies, the results were somewhat miraculous.

Forty-five of the 5,340 reported pregnancies were said to have occurred without the help of a man (or any other reproductive technology).

The girls enrolled in the study in 1994 when they were between 12 and 18 years of age. Researchers then interviewed them throughout 14 years about their health and behavior. Computers were also used so the participants would not feel shy about answering questions about sexual experiences.

The study found that the modern-day Marys were more likely to report that their parents never or rarely talked about sex and birth control than the other women, and were less likely to know how to use condoms. Thirty-one percent said they had signed a vow of chastity at some point.

Thirty-six of the virgin mothers ended up giving birth.

The Toronto Star reported that the British Medical Journal publishes untraditional studies each year in its Christmas edition. The upshot of this one, though, is serious: the authors emphasized that researchers need to be careful about information obtained by self-reporting. Participants in studies can alter the facts even without meaning to, believing or remembering what they want to, even if it’s beyond the possibilities of science.