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Long-lasting birth control devices gaining favor among American women

Although the pill remains the most common form of birth control used by American women, long-acting reversible methods such as intrauterine devices and implants are becoming increasingly popular, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The proportion of women in the U.S. using long-acting devices climbed to 11.6 percent — or 4.4 million women — during the years 2011 to 2013, the study reports. That’s almost twice what it was in 2006 to 2010 (6.6 percent) and almost five times what is was in 2002 (2.4 percent).

That also makes long-lasting devices the fastest growing method of birth control in the United States. Yet, it was still not as popular a choice in 2011 to 2013 as the pill, which 25.9 percent of American women used during that period, or female sterilization (25.1 percent) or male condoms (15.3 percent). 

Other birth control methods used by women in 2011 to 2013 included male sterilization (8.2 percent); withdrawal (4.8 percent); birth control injectables, or “shots” (4.5 percent); and contraceptive ring or patch (2.6 percent).

Overall, 62 percent of the 61 million women aged 15 to 44 in the United States used some form of birth control in 2011-2013 — a percentage that has remained fairly stable since 2002.

Data for the study comes from the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth.

A major public health accomplishment

As background information in the study points out, family planning — “the ability to achieve desired birth spacing and family size” — is considered one of the 10 top “achievements in public health” of the 20th century. Family planning helps protect the health of women by reducing high-risk pregnancies and the health of children by providing sufficient spacing between pregnancies.

Yet not all birth control methods are equally protective against unwanted pregnancy. “The probability of a contraceptive failure (pregnancy) within the first 12 months of typical use of the male condom is 18% compared with 9% for the oral contraceptive pill, 0.8% for the copper intrauterine device (IUD), 0.2% for the levonorgestrel IUD, and 0.05% for the contraceptive implant, Implanon,” write the researchers.

Mirena IntraUterine System
Wikimedia Commons
Mirena IntraUterine System

It’s those low pregnancy rates, coupled with their long protection and ease of use, that have led increasing numbers of women to try IUDs and implants — that and the fact that the Affordable Care Act has made them more affordable.

Additional findings

Here are some other interesting findings from the study:

  • Sterilization is a popular form of birth control for older women. After age 35, about 6 in 10 of women using contraception in this study said they were relying on their own or their partner’s sterilization.
  • Long-lasting devices are more likely to be used by Hispanic women (15.1 percent of those currently using contraceptives) than by white women (11.4 percent) or black women (8.6 percent).
  • The more education a woman has, the more likely she is to rely on her partner’s vasectomy for birth control. Among women using contraceptives in 2011-2013, those with a college degree were almost twice as likely to rely on their partner’s vasectomy than those with a high school diploma or GED  — 14.9 percent compared to 7.8 percent.
  • Women who do not intend to have future babies were more likely to be using nonreversible methods of birth control, such as female and male sterilization. Those women who did intend to become pregnant in the future were more likely to be using male condoms or the pill.

You can read the study in full on the National Center for Health Statistics website.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/13/2015 - 02:07 pm.

    Still problematical

    Among some Republicans, it doesn’t matter what birth control method a woman uses. In the universe of many who like to call themselves “conservative,” ANY birth control method is a bad thing – almost as bad as having an abortion in that same universe.

    In Colorado, this takes the form of making long-term birth control harder – or impossible – to get among the poor, while at the same time making abortion equally difficult or impossible to have access to. In terms of women’s sexual health, too many in the GOP would like us to step back to the 15th century. http://www.coloradoindependent.com/156156/fate-of-proven-birth-control-program-remains-uncertain-larc-colorado-funding-cdphe

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