Morning-After Pill Usage Increases In US

Usage of the morning-after pill in the United States has increased over the last decade. A survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that roughly one in nine women has used emergency contraception. This is an increase from 4.2 percent to 11 percent since a national study was last performed in 2002.

The recent report documents data pulled from a study performed from 2006 to 2010, which surveyed women ages 15 to 44. Around 5.8 million women have used the morning-after pill, with 59 percent having done so only once. Another 24 percent have used emergency contraception just twice, meaning the vast majority of women have not come to rely on the pill regularly. Only 17 percent of women used emergency contraception more than twice.

Younger women are more likely to use emergency contraception than older women. One in four women aged 20 to 24 have done so. Usage is also higher among women who have never married, with nearly one in five having used the pill. Only one in twenty married woman have done the same. These differences may be confounded by married women generally being older than never-married women. It is also worth noting that older women may not have had access to the morning-after pill when they were younger, as it was not yet FDA approved, lowering the number who would have turned to the option.

Women reported either a fear of method failure or having had unprotected sex as reasons for turning to emergency contraception. Results suggest that education affects a woman’s sexual practices, with 58 percent of college-educated women reporting a fear of method failure versus 62 percent of women who have not finished high school reporting having had unprotected sex as their reason for using the morning-after pill. Younger women also reported having had unprotected sex more than older women. Slightly more women turned to the pill because they had unprotected sex than our of a fear that prior contraception had failed.

The use of emergency contraception was highest among college-educated Hispanic or non-Hispanic white women aged 20 to 24 who had never been married. Non-Hispanic black, Hispanic women, and women with less education were more likely to have used the morning-after pill because of unprotected sex.