Proportion of Pregnancies Wanted Later or Not at All Is Decreasing Across Most U.S. States

Most pregnancies in 2017 were wanted when they occurred or sooner, according to a new Guttmacher report that provides state-specific estimates, regional comparisons and trends for pregnancy desires across U.S. states.  

The estimates show that, in the majority of states, the rates of pregnancies that occurred when people did not want to get pregnant fell from 2012 to 2017. Declines in pregnancies that were wanted later or not wanted at all likely prompted overall declines in state-level pregnancy rates during this time period. These findings reinforce evidence from other Guttmacher research that falling pregnancy rates—not abortion restrictions—were the main drivers of recent declines in the U.S. abortion rate.  

The report is the latest in Guttmacher’s body of work that explores pregnancy intentions. Framing this most recent research in terms of pregnancy desire—how people felt about their pregnancy, rather than their intentions—aims to improve understanding of pregnancy experiences in the United States.  

Key report findings:

  • In 2017, pregnancies reported as happening at the right time or being wanted sooner than they happened comprised the largest share of pregnancies in nearly all states.   
  • There was relatively wide variation across states in the proportion of pregnancies wanted then or sooner, which ranged from 41% in Louisiana and Tennessee to 62% in Utah. 
  • The highest proportions of pregnancies described as wanted then or sooner occurred in the West and Midwest. 
  • Previous Guttmacher research has shown that the vast majority of abortions in the United States are among individuals who became pregnant when they had not wanted to be – at that time, or ever.   
  • From 2012 to 2017, the rates of pregnancies that were wanted later or unwanted fell in at least 30 states.    
  • Other research shows that over roughly the same time, the national abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44) fell by 20%, from 16.9 in 2011 to 13.5 in 2017.   
  • There were particularly steep declines in the rates of pregnancies wanted later or unwanted in Delaware (–28%), Hawaii and New Mexico (–31%), and West Virginia (-30%).  Previous research has shown that over roughly the same time, the abortion rate declined in Delaware (-37%), Hawaii (-14%) and West Virginia (-26%).    
  • The proportion of pregnancies that occurred when people did not want to get pregnant was higher in the South and Northeast than in other regions. 

The full report is available here