Surprising Stats: Guess What's Happening With Unplanned Pregnancies in America?

In 2011, 45 percent of pregnancies in the United States were unintended. Though not terribly reassuring, this is an unprecedented 30-year low, according to a new study by Lawrence B. Finer and Mia R. Zolna of the Guttmacher Institute. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, which published the study, “the rate of unintended pregnancy among women and girls 15 to 44 years of age declined by 18 percent, from 54 per 1000 in 2008 to 45 per 1000 in 2011.”

Why the decline? The answer involves better birth control. 

According to Finer, quoted in Vox, women are taking greater advantage of LARCs, or long-acting reversible contraceptives. Inserted and used correctly, LARCs, which include devices like implants and IUDs (intrauterine devices), can last for years and many are 99 percent effective. Those who support IUDs are becoming more and more outspoken on social media, particularly young women and particularly on Facebook.

While we may know why unwanted pregnancies declined, why LARC use rose is still a bit of a mystery. Especially since, as Sarah Kliff notes in Vox, the Affordable Care Act didn’t pass until 2010, and didn’t expand insurance coverage for contraceptives until 2014, outside of the study’s 2008-2011 timeframe. 

This may be why the study found that unintended pregnancies were still more common for women with lower incomes. Out of pocket, IUDs can cost between $500 and $900 depending on the brand, and prior to the 2014 expansion, insurance companies tended to charge women more for IUDs than for birth control pills. With more coverage and more options, hopefully the next study will show even lower rates of unintended pregnancies.

Read more in Vox.

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