Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

State Facts About Unintended Pregnancy: Iowa


National Background and Context

Unintended pregnancy can have significant, negative consequences for individual women, their families and society as a whole. An extensive body of research links births resulting from unintended or closely spaced pregnancies to adverse maternal and child health outcomes and myriad social and economic challenges.(1,2) In 2008, the last year for which national-level data are available, 51% of all pregnancies in the United States were unintended including eight in 10 teen pregnancies; the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate was 54 per 1,000 women aged 15–44, a level significantly higher than that in many other developed countries.(3,4) If current trends continue, more than half of all women in the United States will experience an unintended pregnancy by the time they reach age 45. And economically disadvantaged women are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancy and its consequences: In 2008, the unintended pregnancy rate among women with incomes lower than the federal poverty level, at 137 per 1,000, was more than five times as high as the rate among women with incomes greater than 200% of poverty (26 per 1,000)

In any given year, the two-thirds of women in the United States at risk of unintended pregnancy who use contraceptives consistently throughout the year account for only 5% of all unintended pregnancies; fully 95% of unintended pregnancies are attributable to the one-third of women who do not use contraceptives or who use them inconsistently.(5) Public programs—notably Medicaid and the Title X national family planning program—are central to women's access to affordable contraceptive services and supplies and their ability to use contraceptives effectively. In 2013, 8.3 million women received publicly funded family planning services; these services helped women avoid 2 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in approximately 1 million unplanned births and nearly 700,000 abortions (the remainder would have resulted in miscarriages).(6) Absent publicly funded family planning services, the numbers of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and abortions in the United States would be 60% higher than they currently are.(7)

Unintended pregnancies are also costly to the federal and state governments, resulting in $21.0 billion in public expenditures in 2010.(7) Yet, these costs could have been considerably higher: By helping women avoid unintended pregnancies, publicly funded family planning services saved taxpayers $13.6 billion in 2010, or $7.09 for every $1 spent.(8)

Incidence and Outcomes of Unintended Pregnancy in Iowa

• In 2010, 43% of all pregnancies (23,000) in Iowa were unintended.(9)

• Iowa’s unintended pregnancy rate in 2010 was 39 per 1,000 women aged 15–44. Nationally, rates among the states ranged from a low of 32 per 1,000 in New Hampshire to a high of 62 per 1,000 in Delaware.(9)

• The teen pregnancy rate in Iowa was 44 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2010. The national teen pregnancy rate was 57 per 1,000, ranging from 28 per 1,000 in New Hampshire to 80 per 1,000 in New Mexico.(10)

• In 2010, 61% of unintended pregnancies in Iowa resulted in births and 24% in abortions; the remainder resulted in miscarriages.(9)

Public Cost of Unintended Pregnancy in Iowa

• In 2010, 8,500 or 61.5% of unplanned births in Iowa were publicly funded, compared with 68% nationally.(7)

• In Iowa in 2010, the federal and state governments spent $175.8 million on unintended pregnancies; of this, $127.6 million was paid by the federal government and $48.3 million was paid by the state.(7)

• The total public costs for unintended pregnancies in 2010 was $305 per woman aged 15–44 in Iowa, compared with $201 per woman nationally.(7)

Preventing Unintended Pregnancy in Iowa

• In 2013, 183,860 Iowa women aged 13–44 were in need of publicly funded family planning services.(6)

• Publicly supported family planning centers in Iowa served 66,170 female contraceptive clients in 2013. Those centers met 36% of Iowa women’s need for contraceptive services and supplies, compared with 29% met by family planning centers nationally.(6)

• In 2010, the reported public expenditures for family planning client services in Iowa totaled $20 million; this includes $16.5 million through Medicaid and $3.2 million through Title X. Most states also use some of their own money (in addition to funds required to match federal grants) for family planning services; in 2010, Iowa contributed $248,000. (11)

• Publicly funded family planning centers in Iowa helped avert 16,100 unintended pregnancies in 2013, which would likely have resulted in 8,000 unplanned births and 5,500 abortions.(6)

• By averting unintended pregnancies and other negative reproductive health outcomes, publicly funded family planning services provided by safety-net health centers in Iowa helped save the federal and state governments $137.4 million in 2010.(8)


1. Guttmacher Institute, Testimony of Guttmacher Institute, Submitted to the Committee on Preventive Services for Women, Institute of Medicine, 2011, < testimony.pdf>, accessed Oct. 23, 2012.

2. Sonfield A et al., The Social and Economic Benefits of Women’s Ability to Determine Whether and When to Have Children, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013, < social-economic-benefits.pdf> accessed July 26, 2013.

3 Finer LB and Zolna MR, Shifts in intended and unintended pregnancies in the United States, 2001–2008, American Journal of Public Health, 2014, 104(S1): S44-S48.

4. Singh S, Sedgh G and Hussain R, Unintended pregnancy: worldwide levels, trends, and outcomes, Studies in Family Planning, 2010, 41(4):241–250.

5. Sonfield A, Hasstedt K and Gold RB, Moving Forward, Family Planning in the Era of Health Reform, <> New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2014.

6. Frost JJ, Frohwirth L and Zolna MR, Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2013 Update, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2015, < pubs/win/contraceptive-needs-2013.pdf>, accessed July 15, 2015.

7. Sonfield A and Kost K, Public Costs from Unintended Pregnancies and the Role of Public Insurance Programs in Paying for Pregnancy-Related Care: National and State Estimates for 2010, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2015, <>, accessed February 23, 2015.

8. Frost JJ, Sonfield A, Zolna MR and Finer LB, Return on investment: a fuller assessment of the benefits and cost savings of the US publicly funded family planning program, The Milbank Quarterly, 2014, doi: 10.1111/1468-0009.12080, <, accessed Oct. 15, 2014.

9. Kost K, Unintended Pregnancy Rates at the State Level: Estimates for 2010 and Trends Since 2002 New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2015, < >, accessed January 20, 2015.

10. Guttmacher Institute, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2014, <>

11. Sonfield A and Gold RB, Public Funding for Family Planning Sterilization and Abortion Services, FY 1980–2010, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2012, < Public-Funding-FP-2010.pdf>.