Recent findings published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that the rate of unintended pregnancy declined by 6% from 2008 to 2011 in the United States.
“While this trend is certainly good news, it’s important to note that nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are still unintended,” Lawrence B. Finer, PhD, at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a press release. “We have made progress in a short period of time, but we still have a long way to go to ensure that all women — regardless of socioeconomic status — are able to achieve their childbearing goals.”
Compared with women with intended pregnancies, women who have unintended pregnancies that result in births are more likely to have inadequate or a delayed initiation of prenatal care, to smoke and drink during pregnancy, to have premature and low-birth-weight infants, and to be at increased risk of physical and mental health problems, the researchers wrote. They are also less likely to breast feed. In addition, the rate of unintended pregnancy is still much higher in the United States than it is in other industrialized countries of Western Europe.
To calculate the pregnancy rates and each woman’s pregnancy intentions, the researchers obtained data from the National Survey of Family Growth, data from a national survey of patients who had abortions, data on births from the National Center for Health Statistics, and data on induced abortions from a national census of abortion providers.
The researchers found that 45% of pregnancies were unintended in 2011, compared with 51% in 2008. The rate of unintended pregnancy among women aged 15 to 44 years declined by 18% and declined by at least 25% among girls aged 15 to 17 years, women who were cohabiting, women with incomes between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty level, women without a high school education, and women who were Hispanic. Unintended pregnancies that resulted in abortion increased slightly from 40% in 2008 to 42% in 2011.
Long-acting contraceptive use increased from 4% in 2007 to 12% in 2012, the researchers wrote. This increase took place in all demographic groups.
“When women have access to a broad method mix that includes highly effective methods, they can choose the method that is best suited for them,” Finer said in the release. “This reduces their risk of unintended pregnancy and leads to better health outcomes for women and their families.” – by Will Offit
Disclosure: Please see the full study for a list of the authors’ relevant disclosures.