Jun 30, 2021 - Health

CDC: 30% of women at risk of pregnancy are not using contraceptives

Data: Zapata, et al., 2021. "Need for Contraceptive Services Among Women of Reproductive Age — 45 Jurisdictions, United States, 2017–2019"; Note: Data for Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas are from 2017; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Nearly a third of women of child-bearing age in U.S. did not always use contraceptives during sexual encounters, a new CDC analysis shows, and it was often due to gaps in access to effective birth control.

Why it matters: About half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, which is linked to adverse maternal and infant health outcomes, per the agency.

By the numbers: Based on data between 2017 and 2019, 61% of women who are of child-bearing age — between ages 18 and 49 — "had ongoing or potential need for contraceptive services," meaning these women were sexually active with a male partner and were not seeking pregnancy.

  • Nearly a third of them reported they did not use contraception during their last sexual encounter.
  • About 6 million of these women were uninsured and might require publicly-funded care, showing cost may be a barrier for some women.
  • Of those who were using contraceptives, 30% — the largest group — used less effective "barrier" methods such as condoms, withdrawal or emergency contraception like the morning-after pill.
  • The second-highest use was 25% of women using "a short-acting reversible method" like a shot, pill or patch.

Zoom in: For women in some states, the risk of unintended pregnancy compared to their need for contraceptives was much higher like New York at 74% and Georgia at 85%.

  • States like Texas and Hawaii and territory Puerto Rico had the highest rates of women least likely to use any form of contraception.

The bottom line: “Improving contraception access and uptake among these women might have a large effect on meeting reproductive health care needs and reducing unintended pregnancies,” the authors write. 

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