March 20, 2013
Who Uses Emergency Contraception and Why?
CDC Provides Answers

Atlanta—With all of the controversy about emergency contraception and who is required to dispense it, little has been documented about who actually comes into the pharmacy requesting the products.

Now, a new report from the CDC provides an answer to that question, including the widespread use of emergency contraception among younger women.

According to the CDC report, between 2006 and 2010, one in nine sexually experienced women aged 15–44 had used emergency contraception at least once.

The typical user was a Hispanic or non-Hispanic white women, 20- to 24-years-old, never married, and who had attended at least some college. Most women who used emergency contraception did it once or twice.

In fact, nearly one in four (23%) sexually experienced women aged 20 to 24 reported using emergency contraception at some point, compared with 16% of women aged 25 to 29 and 14% of women aged 15 to 19. Only 5% of women aged 30 to 44 reported having ever used it.

“When looking at age differences, it should be kept in mind that not all women had access to emergency contraception during the earlier portion of their reproductive years,” according to the report. “It was expected that older women would have used emergency contraception less frequently than younger women for reasons of both supply and demand: Emergency contraception was not FDA approved in their early reproductive years, and the use of sterilization as a contraceptive method increases with age, consequently decreasing the potential demand for emergency contraception.”

Understanding emergency contraception trends is important, according to CDC, because about one-half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.

Emergency contraceptive pills were first approved by the FDA in 1998, but hormonal contraceptives had been used for emergency contraception since the 1960s. Now, at least four brands of emergency contraceptive pills are available—most approved for OTC sales to women 17 years old and older.

The most common reasons for seeking emergency contraception were evenly divided between fears that the birth control measure used had failed or concern that unprotected sex had led to pregnancy.

Non-Hispanic black (60%) and Hispanic women (59%) as well as those with less education were more likely to have used emergency contraception because of unprotected sex, compared with non-Hispanic white women (43%).

Overall, the percentage of women reporting using emergency contraception because of unprotected sex dropped as education levels increased—from 62% of those with less than a high school education to 43% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Fear of method failure was more common among older women, non-Hispanic white women, and women with more education.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect