Contraceptive Use in the United States by Demographics
Most of the data in this fact sheet come from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) and apply to sexually active U.S. women* of reproductive age who are not seeking pregnancy.† Unless otherwise noted, data are for 2016 and the contraceptive methods noted are the most effective method used during the month of the survey interview. Data are drawn from the female respondent file of the NSFG in recognition that the majority of contraceptive methods available are designed to be used by those with the capacity for pregnancy (i.e., women).
Potential demand for contraception
- In 2018, there were 72.7 million women of reproductive age (15–49) in the United States.1
- Sexually active couples who do not use any method of contraception have approximately an 85% chance of experiencing a pregnancy over the course of a year.2
- The average number of children U.S. adults think is ideal is 2.7.3 To achieve this family size, a sexually active woman must use contraceptives for roughly three decades.4
Who uses contraceptives
- In 2018, 65% of U.S. women aged 15–49 were using a contraceptive method.5
- Almost all women who identify as religious have ever used contraceptive methods—99% of mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants and Catholics, and 96% of people with other religious affiliations.7
- Among sexually active women who were not seeking pregnancy, 88% were using a contraceptive method in 2016, and this proportion has remained steady since 2002.8
- Contraceptive use among women who were sexually active and not seeking pregnancy was lowest among 15–24-year-olds (83%) and highest among 25–34-year-olds (91%).8
- Among women who were sexually active and not seeking pregnancy, those identifying as non-Hispanic White, another non-Hispanic race or multiple races had similar rates of contraceptive use (89%); the rates for those identifying as non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic were 84% and 87%, respectively.8
- Some 86% of sexually active women not seeking pregnancy with incomes below the federal poverty level used a method, while 91% of those with an income of at least 300% of the poverty level did so.8
- The rates of use were 87–91% among sexually active women not seeking pregnancy who had had children and 85% among those who had not had children.8
- Among all sexually active women not seeking pregnancy, 93% of unmarried women who lived with a partner used contraceptives, as did 90% of married women and 83% of unmarried women who did not live with a partner.8
- Sexually active women who were not seeking pregnancy who had had same-sex sexual contact had the same level of contraceptive use (88%) as those who had never had such contact.8
- Among sexually active women not seeking pregnancy, 81% of those with no insurance coverage used contraceptives, as did 87% of those covered by Medicaid and 90% of those covered by private health insurance.8
1. Special tabulations of data from the 2017–2019 National Survey of Family Growth.
2. Trussell J, Contraceptive failure in the United States, Contraception, 2011, 83(5):397–404, doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2011.01.021.
3. Saad L, Americans, in theory, think larger families are ideal, Gallup, Jul. 6, 2018, https://news.gallup.com/poll/236696/americans-theory-think-larger-famil….
4. Sonfield A, Hasstedt K and Gold RB, Moving Forward: Family Planning in the Era of Health Reform, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2014, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/moving-forward-family-planning-era-he….
5. Daniels K and Abma JC, Current contraceptive status among women aged 15–49: United States, 2017–2019, NCHS Data Brief, 2020, No. 388, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db388-H.pdf.
6. Daniels K, Mosher WD and Jones J, Contraceptive methods women have ever used: United States, 1982–2010, National Health Statistics Reports, 2013, No. 62, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr062.pdf.
7. Jones RK, People of all religions use birth control and have abortions, Guttmacher Institute, 2020, https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2020/10/people-all-religions-use-bir….
8. Kavanaugh ML and Pliskin E, Use of contraception among reproductive-aged women in the United States, 2014 and 2016, F&S Reports, 2020, 1(2):83–93, https://www.fertstertreports.org/article/S2666-3341(20)30038-6/fulltext.
*Some measures from the most recent National Surveys of Family Growth (2015–2017 and 2017–2019; referred to as 2016 and 2018, respectively) apply to women aged 15–49; the bulk of the available data represent women aged 15–44.
†In this fact sheet, we refer to the contraceptive users for whom we have data as “women” to reflect the terminology used in our data sources. However, we recognize that data collection processes do not always accurately or comprehensively capture participants’ gender, and eligible contraceptive users may miss an opportunity to participate in surveys because of their gender expression. We encourage readers to consider that contraceptive users’ gender identities are diverse, despite the limitations of this language and survey process.