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Access to Contraception Credited for Big Drop in Unintended Pregnancies

New research shows expanding access to birth control options has reduced women's risk of unintended pregnancies and led to better health outcomes. (iStockphoto)
New research shows expanding access to birth control options has reduced women's risk of unintended pregnancies and led to better health outcomes. (iStockphoto)
March 21, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. – Unintended pregnancies are at their lowest level in 30 years in the U.S., and researchers say it's largely due to women's access to a healthy mix of birth control options.

A new study in this month's New England Journal of Medicine shows the rate of unplanned pregnancies dropped 18 percent between 2008 and 2011, the biggest dip in decades.

But Connie Lewis, executive vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, says lower income women are still five times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy than wealthier women.

"That's because there are barriers to access to contraception,” she points out. “With the expansion of Medicaid and with the Affordable Care Act, people have access to contraception that they feel comfortable with, that's very effective."

The report also notes that fewer unintended pregnancies lead to less financial and emotional stress for families.

South Dakota lawmakers are expected to consider Gov. Dennis Daugaard's Medicaid expansion plans in the coming weeks.

Report co-author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, says the research also found that women of color were almost twice as likely to have an unintended pregnancy as white women.

But considering the overall drop, Finer says the trend is keeping pace with some of the goals outlined in the federal Healthy People 2020 plan, including improved pregnancy planning.

"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 stresses. “And I think this is making a contribution to the decline in unintended pregnancies."

Finer says if women have access to a wider mix of contraception methods, it can lead to better health outcomes for them and their families.




Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD