Rate of Unplanned Pregnancy in the US Has Hit a Historic New Low

Unplanned pregnancies have hit the lowest level in the last 3 decades. According to a recent analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of unplanned pregnancies dropped from 51% in 2008 to 45% in 2011. Lawrence B. Finer, Ph.D. and Mia R. Zolna, M.P.H., lead authors of the analysis, looked at unplanned pregnancies across the categories of age, ethnicity, income, race, and education. While there are variations on rates of unplanned pregnancies in each category, the analysis showed decreases throughout.

The definition of an unplanned pregnancy is any pregnancy that is unwanted or mistimed. A pregnancy is considered unwanted when a woman did not want to become pregnant then or at any time in the future. Mistimed pregnancy is when a woman did not want to become pregnant at the time the pregnancy occurred, but did want to become pregnant some time in the future. Intended pregnancy is when pregnancy occurs and is desired at that time or sooner. Women who are indifferent about becoming pregnant are considered part of the intended pregnancy group. 

The data on pregnancy intentions was obtained from the National Survey of Family Growth and a national survey of patients who had abortions, data on births from the National Center for Health Statistics, and data on induced abortions from a national census of abortion providers.

The rate of unplanned pregnancy decreased 32% among people with incomes at 100% to 199% of the poverty level. Although there were decreases across all income levels, this population showed the greatest decrease. Among women who had not graduated from high school, the rate dropped 28%, 2% among high school graduates, 16% among women who had attended some college, and 14% among college graduates. The rate went down 13% for non-Hispanic whites and 15% for blacks. The figure among Hispanics declined by 26%.

Within the religious groups category, all groups showed a decline, the largest being evangelical Protestants at 27%. Among women without religious affiliation, the rate of unintended pregnancy declined by 26%.

Unintended pregnancies were most common in women who cohabitated (81%) and teenagers (75%).

Although the authors are unsure about what contributed to the decrease in unplanned pregnancy, they hypothesize the use of long term contraceptive methods, such as intrauterine devices and contraceptive patches, are a significant contributor to the decline.

Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.

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