The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization that works to advance reproductive health, released a report in September on the state of unintended pregnancy in the United States. The organization estimates that currently, around 49% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. This is higher than the rate of unintended pregnancy in many other developed countries. For this study, an unintended pregnancy is considered a pregnancy that is either mistimed or unwanted.
While the rate of unintended pregnancy has remained more or less stable in the U.S. between 2001 and 2006, it has increased substantially among poor and low-income women while decreasing in higher-income populations. Between 1994 and 2006, the rate of unintended pregnancy in women whose income fell below the federal poverty line increased by 50%, while decreasing for women whose income was at 200% or more above the poverty line by 29%.
The report points out that access to and use of contraception has a significant impact on unintended pregnancy. Two-thirds of women that are at risk for an unintended pregnancy use contraception correctly and consistently. These women make up only 5% of all unintended pregnancies. 19% of at-risk women use contraception incorrectly or inconsistently, and account for 43% of unintended pregnancies, while 52% of unintended pregnancies come from from the 16% of at-risk women who do not use contraception at all for at least a month during the year.
While unintended pregnancies can cause hardships for the women and families they affect, they are also a public health issue. Research shows that unintended and closely spaced pregnancies are associated with negative health outcomes for both mothers and babies. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has incorporated unintended pregnancy into their Healthy People 2020 campaign, and will attempt to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy to 44% by 2020.
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