Background

The availability and use of contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy has had profound and positive impacts on the lives of American women. This study looks beyond the aggregate benefits of contraceptive use to examine the individual-level benefits and reasons for using contraception reported by women themselves.

Study Design

We surveyed 2,094 women receiving services from 22 family planning clinics located throughout the United States.

Results

A majority of respondents reported that birth control use had allowed them to take better care of themselves or their families (63%), support themselves financially (56%), complete their education (51%), or keep or get a job (50%). Young women, unmarried women and those without children reported more reasons for using contraception than others. Not being able to afford a baby, not being ready for children, feeling that having a baby would interrupt their goals and wanting to maintain control in their lives were the most commonly reported very important reasons for using birth control.

Conclusions

Women value the ability to plan their childbearing and need continued access to contraception and contraceptive services, allowing them to realize the benefits that accrue when unintended pregnancies are avoided.