Accidental Pregnancies in the US Have Plummeted Thanks to IUDs

Illustration for article titled Accidental Pregnancies in the US Have Plummeted Thanks to IUDs

Unintended pregnancies are at a 30 year low in the United States. Experts say the welcome downtrend is mostly attributable to the burgeoning use of long-acting contraceptive methods, especially IUDs.


A New England Journal of Medicine report out of the Guttmacher Institute shows that accidental pregnancies in the US have dropped by a whopping 18 percent from 2008 to 2011, a period of just three years. It’s the lowest level in three decades. The decline is being linked to the increased use of intrauterine devices, a first-line contraceptive choice for women who haven’t had a baby. These small plastic T-shaped devices are inserted in the uterus, and don’t require further means of contraception. Once a woman is ready to have a baby, the IUD can simply be removed.

Among women aged 15 to 44, the new study found that 45 out of a thousand had an accidental pregnancy in 2011. Three years earlier that number was 54 out of a thousand. Unwanted pregnancies occurred less frequently across several demographic measures, including age, race, ethnicity, and income. Abortions stemming from unintended pregnancies remained stable at about 40 to 42 percent.


An uptick in the use of IUDs during this time suggests a connection. From 2007 to 2012, the use of IUDs and other long-lasting contraception tripled from four percent to 12 percent.

Despite the downtrend in unwanted pregnancies, disparities still exist among certain groups. Low income women have pregnancy rates that are five times higher than that of higher-income earners. High school dropouts are about three times more likely to have an accidental pregnancy, and black and Hispanic women are about twice as likely to have an unwanted pregnancy than whites.

The recent introduction of the US Affordable Care Act could drive these numbers down even further.

“Given that we researched a period that was before the Affordable Care Act, we’re interested to see what is going to happen going forward,” noted study co-author Lawrence Finer in a statement. “We may see a continued downward trend.”


[The New England Journal of Medicine]

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I was a little confused by the comment that it’s first-line contraception for those that haven’t had a baby—because most women can use them whether or not they’ve given birth.

Also, it’s unfortunate that the legislators in Colorado did not continue funding IUDs for teens—which managed to cut the teen birth rate by 40%. IUDs are expensive, usually over $1,000, which is a lot of money up front if health insurance isn’t covering it (but of course it’s very reasonable if you look at monthly cost over a five-seven year period).