US Emergency Contraceptive Use on the Rise

Yael Waknine

September 06, 2013

Emergency contraceptive use has more than doubled since 2002, according to a new report published online September 5 by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings, based on 12,279 interviews with women aged 15 to 44 years during the 2006 to 2010 National Survey of Family Growth, revealed a rise in emergency contraceptive use from 0.9% to 2.2%.

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the popularity of emergency contraception has soared since its initial approval for prescription use in 1998, and recent approval of over-the-counter sale is bound to foster even more widespread use.

The new report indicates that women seeking information about emergency contraception were more likely to be young (age 15 - 19 years, 17.8%; age 20 - 24 years, 15.5%; age 25 - 29 years, 9.2%; age 30 - 44 years, 4.9%), of Hispanic or black origin/race rather than white (17.9% and 11.5%, respectively, vs 5.7%), and living in central metropolitan vs nonmetropolitan areas (19.3% vs 5.8%). They were also more often below the poverty level (<101% poverty level, 12.5%; ≥251% poverty level, 4.9%) and were more likely to report gaps in insurance coverage during the previous year (14.2% vs 7.0%).

The report also revealed an overall 27% increase in counseling, testing, or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases 12.6% in 2002 vs 16.0% in 2006 - 2010). In contrast, use of preventive measures such as pelvic exams and Papanicolaou tests declined between 2002 and 2006-2010 (55.2% vs 59.7% and 60.4% vs 64.4%, respectively). No change was observed with respect to the percentage of women who obtained birth control, a birth control checkup or test, counseling on emergency contraception, a pregnancy test, or a sterilizing operation.

Other key findings from the 2006 to 2010 survey include:

  • Of the 70% of US women aged 15 to 44 years receiving family planning or related medical services, 53% had at least 1 visit with a private clinician/health maintenance organization and 18% went to a clinic at least once during the last year; 9% went to a Title X–funded clinic.

  • Compared with women going to a private clinician/health maintenance organization, those visiting Title X clinics were nearly twice as likely to have engaged in sexual or drug-related HIV risk behavior in the last year (14.2% vs 7.5%) and to receive treatment for a sexually transmitted disease (8.2% vs 4.5%); they also were less likely to receive Papanicolaou tests and pelvic exams (84.5% vs 88.9% and 71.7% vs 82.9%).

  • Women visiting Title X clinics were also more likely to have an income below the poverty line (37.6% vs 15.2%) and lack health insurance during the last 12 months (48.4% vs 18.5%).

"Use of Family Planning and Related Medical Services Among Women Aged 15–44 in the United States: National Survey of Family Growth, 2006–2010." CDC. Published online September 5, 2013. Full text

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