Women's Use of Most Effective Contraceptive Methods Has Doubled Since 2002

Further Increase Could Substantially Reduce Unintended Pregnancy

Use of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (IUDs and implants) among American women has increased significantly, from 2.4% in 2002 to 5.6% in 2006–2008, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute. Notwithstanding this substantial increase, use of these methods in the United States remains among the lowest of any developed country. IUDs and implants are among the most effective contraceptives, with failure rates of less than 1%. More widespread use could play an important role in lowering rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States.

The authors analyzed data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth and found that the highest prevalence of long-acting reversible contraceptive method use was among Hispanic women (8.4%) and foreign-born women (8.8%). They also found that women who had ever given birth, or who had ever stopped using a hormonal contraceptive because of dissatisfaction with the method, were more likely to be users of these methods. Use of long-acting reversible contraceptives has increased among every demographic group since 2002, although the most dramatic increases occurred among women younger than 24 and those older than 35, non-Hispanic women, U.S.-born women and those in the highest income group.

The authors speculate that the increase in use among younger women may indicate providers’ growing willingness to provide long-acting reversible methods to these women. However, they also suggest that there is potential to further increase use among young women, as well as among women who have never given birth—two groups who are at high risk for unintended pregnancy but who have not historically been considered candidates for these methods and may instead be relying on less effective contraceptive methods.

"Characteristics of Women in the United States Who Use Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive Methods," by Megan L. Kavanaugh et al., appears in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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