Fifty years since the introduction of the oral birth control pill, it is still the preferred method of contraception for American women, used by 10.7 million women between the ages of 15 and 44. The second most popular method of contraception is female sterilization, with 10.3 million users.
More women are also using birth control the first time they have premarital sex: the proportion of women using a contraceptive at first intercourse rose to 84% in 2008, compared with 76% in 2004 and 55% before 1985. Most of the increase comes from the growing use of the male condom, which was used by 72% of women the first time they had sex, up from 34% before 1985.
The data come from the National Survey of Family Growth, a regular survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent survey of 13,495 men and women ages 15 to 44, who were interviewed in their homes, was conducted between 2006 and 2008. The report on contraceptive use in the U.S. — a major factor in national birth, pregnancy and unintended pregnancy rates — was based on data on the 7,356 women who participated in the survey.
Other key data from the contraceptive-use report, released Wednesday:
- 99% of all sexually active women have ever used some form of contraceptive
- Women’s contraceptive use varies widely depending on level of education (their own and their parents’): 84% of women whose mother had a college education used contraception the first time they had sex, compared with 53% of women whose mothers did not finish high school; 55% of women between the ages of 22 and 44 who had not finished high school were using female sterilization, compared with only 16% of those who had graduated from college; 35% of college graduates ages 22 to 44 used the Pill, compared with 10% who didn’t graduate from high school
- Women’s choice of contraception varies by age and number of children: 50% of sexually active women in the 40–44 age group using contraception choose sterilization, compared with 11% choosing the Pill; 54% of sexually active women under 20 years old using contraception use the Pill; among contraceptive users with no children, 55% choose the Pill, compared with 8% of those with three or more births; among women with three or more children, 59% use female sterilization
- The IUD is regaining popularity: 5.5% of American women using contraception choose the IUD, up from 2% in 2002 and 1% in 1995 (in 1982, 7% of women using contraception used IUDs); currently, 2.1 million women choose that form of birth control
- About 40% of births in the U.S. in recent years were to unmarried women
- In addition to 4 million births, about 1 million miscarriages and stillbirths occur in the U.S. each year, and about 1.2 million abortions are performed
- Hispanic and black women have higher birth rates and higher percentages of births to unmarried mothers than non-Hispanic white women
- 10% of women of reproductive age get pregnant in any given year: the overall pregnancy rate for women 15–44 years of age in recent years is about 100 pregnancies per 1,000 women 15–44 per year; about half of pregnancies are unintended
- 11% of sexually active unmarried women who are not intending to become pregnant do not use contraceptives
- Among women who had an unintended pregnancy in the three to four years before the survey and had not been using a contraceptive, 44% said the reason for nonuse was “Did not think you could get pregnant”; 14% cited the reason “Did not expect to have sex”; 17% said either “Male partner didn’t want to use birth control” or “Male partner didn’t want you to use birth control”