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 2006, the last year for which national-level data are available, 49% of all pregnancies in the United States were unintended including eight in 10 teen pregnancies; the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate was 52 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.(3,5) And economically disadvantaged women are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancy and its consequences: In 2006, the unintended pregnancy rate among women with incomes lower than the federal poverty level, at 132 per 1,000, was more than five times as high as the rate among women with incomes greater than 200% of poverty (24 per 1,000).(5)

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.(6) 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 2010, 8.9 million women received publicly funded family planning services; these services helped women avoid 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in approximately 1.1 million unplanned births and 760,000 abortions.(7) Absent publicly funded family planning services, the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions in the United States would be two-thirds higher than they currently are.(7)

Births resulting from unintended pregnancy are also costly to the federal and state governments, resulting in $12.5 billion in government expenditures in 2008.(8) Without publicly funded family planning services, the annual public cost of births from unintended pregnancy nationwide would double, to more than $25 billion. By helping women avoid unintended pregnancies, these services saved taxpayers $10.5 billion in 2010, or $5.68 for every $1 spent.(7)

Incidence and Outcomes of Unintended Pregnancy in Iowa

• In 2008, 44% of all pregnancies (24,000) in Iowa were unintended.(9)

• Iowa’s unintended pregnancy rate in 2008 was 42 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Nationally, rates among the states ranged from a low of 33 per 1,000 in New Hampshire to a high of 70 per 1,000 in Delaware.(9)

• The teen pregnancy rate in Iowa was 51 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 2008. The national teen pregnancy rate was 68 per 1,000, ranging from 33 per 1,000 in New Hampshire to 93 per 1,000 in New Mexico.(10)

• In 2008, 61% of unintended pregnancies in Iowa resulted in births and 24% in abortions; the remainder resulted in miscarriages.(9)

• In Iowa in 2008, 37% of all births (14,800) resulted from unintended pregnancies, compared with 39% nationally.(8)

Public Cost of Unintended Pregnancy in Iowa

• In 2008, 8,400 or 57% of births that resulted from unintended pregnancy in Iowa were publicly funded. Nationally, 65% of births that resulted from unintended pregnancy were publicly funded, ranging among the states from a low of 38% in North Dakota to a high of 83% in Mississippi.(8)

• In Iowa in 2008, the federal and state governments spent $132 million on births resulting from unintended pregnancies; of this, $82 million (62%) was paid by the federal government and $51 million (38%) was paid by the state.(8)

• The total public cost for births resulting from unintended pregnancies in 2008 was $228 per woman aged 15-44 in Iowa, compared with $201 per woman nationally.(8)

Preventing Unintended Pregnancy in Iowa

• In 2010, 182,930 Iowa women aged 13-44 were in need of publicly funded family planning services.(7)

• Publicly supported family planning centers in Iowa served 83,930 female contraceptive clients in 2010. Those centers met 46% of Iowa women’s need for contraceptive services and supplies, compared with 35% met by family planning centers nationally.(7)

• 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)

• The services provided by family planning centers in Iowa helped avert 21,000 unintended pregnancies in 2010, which would likely have resulted in 10,400 births and 7,200 abortions.(7)

• Averting these unintended pregnancies in Iowa helped save the federal and state governments $121.2 million in Medicaid costs for pregnancy-related and newborn care in 2010.(7)


1. Guttmacher Institute, Testimony of Guttmacher Institute, Submitted to the Committee on Preventive Services for Women, Institute of Medicine, 2011, <>, 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, <> accessed July 26, 2013.

3. Finer LB and Zolna MR, Unintended pregnancy in the United States: incidence and disparities, 2006, Contraception, 2011, 84(5):478–485.

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. Guttmacher Institute, Facts on unintended pregnancy in the United States, In Brief, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2012, <>, accessed Nov. 12, 2012.

6. Gold RB et al., Next Steps for America’s Family Planning Program: Leveraging the Potential of Medicaid and Title X in an Evolving Health Care System, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2009.

7. Guttmacher Institute, Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2010, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013, <>, accessed July 15, 2013.

8. Sonfield A and Kost K, Public Costs from Unintended Pregnancies and the Role of Public Insurance Programs in Paying for Pregnancy and Infant Care: Estimates for 2008, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013, <>,accessed October 22, 2013.

9. Kost K, Unintended Pregnancy Rates at the State Level: Estimates for 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013, <>, accessed September 9, 2013.

10. Guttmacher Institute, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2008: State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013, <>

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