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Unintended Pregnancies at Lowest Level in Decades

New research shows a national drop in unintended pregnancies, but not for all women. (iStockphoto)
New research shows a national drop in unintended pregnancies, but not for all women. (iStockphoto)
March 9, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. - The U.S. rate for unintended pregnancies is at its lowest level in decades, according to new research.

Looking at numbers from 2008 to 2011, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute have said the rate of unplanned pregnancies dropped to a 30-year low. Fewer unintended pregnancies leads to less financial and emotional stress for families, according to the researchers.

However, Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the institute, said disparities still exist for certain women. For example, Finer found that poor women are five times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy than are wealthier women.

"We certainly still have a ways to go in order to eliminate those disparities and ensure that everybody's able to make decisions about family formation and follow through and actually have the children that they want, when they want to." he said.

The report, published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, also showed that women of color were almost twice as likely to have an unintended pregnancy as were white women. Still, with the overall decline, Finer said the country is moving in the right direction. The trend is keeping pace with some of the goals outlined in the federal Healthy People 2020 plan, he said, including improved pregnancy planning and preventing unintended pregnancies.

Finer credited access to more and better methods of birth control as big drivers behind the declines.

"There are a number of highly effective, long-acting methods, such as the IUD and the implant, which are being used a lot more than they used to be," he said. "I think this is making a contribution to the decline in unintended pregnancies."

If women have access to a broad mix of contraception methods, Finer said, it can lead to better health outcomes for them and their families.

The report summary is online at nejm.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND