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Expand chart
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. 

Go deeper

Sep 29, 2021 - Sports

NCAA to use "March Madness" brand for women's basketball tournament

The Stanford Cardinal celebrate the win over the Arizona Wildcats during the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on April 4. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

The NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament in 2022 will use the "March Madness" branding that has long been used only for the men's tournament, the NCAA announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The announcement comes after gender inequities at the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments in 2021 sparked national outrage.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
9 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tesla delays Cybertruck until 2023

Tesla debuts the Cybertruck in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is at risk of falling behind on one of the most critical products in the American auto industry: pickups.

Why it matters: Pickups are the most profitable segment in the business and account for the first, second and third best-selling vehicles in the country. Without a serious pickup strategy, Tesla could miss out on a huge source of future income.

Defense taking steps to mitigate civilian harm after botched airstrikes

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 1, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive Thursday to improve the U.S. military's approach to civilian harm mitigation and response, calling it a "strategic and a moral imperative."

Why it matters: The Pentagon has faced criticism for years for amassing civilian casualties in its missions, especially in the Middle East. New York Times investigations have found systemic failures in efforts to prevent civilian deaths, as well as a cover-up of a 2019 airstrike that killed dozens of women and children in Syria.