Younger women using emergency contraception

February 15, 2013

A new US government report on emergency contraception, or “morning-after” pills, reveals that 14% of young women aged 15 to 19 years who ever had sexual intercourse said they used it at least once to prevent pregnancy.

A new US government report on emergency contraception (EC), or “morning-after” pills, reveals that 14% of young women aged 15 to 19 years who ever had sexual intercourse said they used it at least once to prevent pregnancy. Among sexually experienced women aged 15 to 44 years, the rate was 1 in 9 (11%).

The report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, is the government’s first to focus on EC since its approval in 1999. Data are based on the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth.

The findings also show that 34% of girls aged 15 to 19 years who ever used ECs did so out of fear that their current method of birth control had failed, and 47% said that they used ECs because they had unprotected sex.

Overall, sexually experienced women aged from 20 to 24 years, those who were never married, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women were most likely to use ECs. The 2006-2010 rate for women ever using ECs rose to 11%, up from 4% in 2002.

Fifty-nine percent of the women reported using ECs once, 24% reported using ECs twice, and 15% reported 3 or more times.

Emergency contraception is a high-dose version of birth control pills that prevents ovulation if taken within a few days after sex. It is available over the counter to all women aged 17 years and older; girls younger than 17 require a prescription.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports EC as safe and effective for girls and advises pediatricians to provide anticipatory guidance to patients and prescriptions in advance of need as part of a public health strategy to reduce teenaged pregnancies.