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Child Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Unintended Pregnancy and Contraception Use

Narrative

An unintended pregnancy is one that is mistimed (occurred too soon) or unwanted (occurred when the woman wanted no future pregnancies) at the time of conception. Unintended pregnancies that result in births are associated with both short- and long-term negative outcomes for both mother and child, including delayed prenatal care, reduced likelihood of breastfeeding, maternal depression, increased risk for intimate partner violence, and poor developmental and educational outcomes for children.1 However, in 2006-2010, women reported that 37.1 percent of live births occurring in the past 5 years were unintended at the time of conception. This includes 13.8 percent of pregnancies that were unwanted and 23.3 percent that were mistimed. Fourteen percent of all births were reported by the mother to have occurred 2 or more years too soon (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Overall, the proportion of births reported to be unintended did not change significantly between 1982 and 2010.2

Unintended pregnancy varies by a variety of factors, including maternal age, race/ethnicity, poverty and education. In 2006–2010, over three-quarters of births in the past 5 years to mothers aged 15-19 years were reported to be unintended at the time of conception. The same was true for half of births to women aged 20-24 years and one-quarter to women aged 25-44 years. Births to non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women were more likely than those to non-Hispanic White women to have been unintended (53.5 and 42.9 versus 30.7 percent, respectively; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).3

Unintended pregnancies can be averted with proper use of effective contraceptives. In 2006–2010, 4.7 million, or 11.0 percent, of women at risk of unintended pregnancy—who were having intercourse and not sterile, pregnant, postpartum, or trying to get pregnant—reported that they were not using contraception. Non-Hispanic Black women were more likely than women of other race or ethnic groups to not use contraception while at risk of pregnancy (17.2 percent).

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020 Topics and Objectives: Family Planning. Accessed: 03/21/13.

2 Mosher WD, Jones J, Abma JC. Intended and unintended births in the United States: 1982–2010. National health statistics reports; no 55. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.

3 Estimates by poverty are limited to women aged 20-44 years at the time of the survey. Estimates by educational attainment are limited to women aged 22-44 years at the time of the survey.

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

intendedness of births graph

This image is described in the Data section.

no current contraceptives graph

Data

Intendedness of Births at Consception* Among Women Aged 15-44 Years, by Age, 2006-2010
Age Group Percent of Intended Births Percent of Unwanted Births Percent of Mistimed Births
*Limited to births occurring in the 5 years before the interview. Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: Mosher WD, Jones J, Abma JC. Intended and unintended births in the United States: 1982–2010. National health statistics reports; no 55. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.
15-19 Years 22.8 19.3 57.9
20-24 Years 49.9 16.5 33.6
25-44 Years 74.6 11.8 13.7
Total 62.9 13.8 23.3

No Current Contraceptive Use Among Women Aged 15-44 Years, at Risk of Unintended Pregnancy,* by Race/Ethnicity,** 2006–2010

Percent of Women:

  • Non-Hispanic White 9.5
  • Non-Hispanic Black 17.2
  • Hispanic 10.4
  • Non-Hispanic Asian 10.3
  • Total 11.0

*At risk of unintended pregnancy is defined as having had intercourse in the last 3 months among those who were not currently pregnant, postpartum, trying to get pregnant, or sterile for health reasons.

**Estimates for other racial/ethnic groups were not available.

Source: Jones, J, Mosher WD, Daniels K. Current Contraceptive Use in the United States, 2006-2010, and Changes in Patterns of Use Since 1995. National Center for Health Statistics.