The majority of women of reproductive age (15-44 years) in the U.S. use contraception. The percent of women in this age group who use contraception increased substantially between 1982 and 1995, from 55.7 percent and 64.2 percent, and dropped slightly to 61.9 percent in 2002. These percentages represent all women of reproductive age, not just sexually active women. Therefore, a woman’s reason for non-contraceptive use is an important factor to consider when comparing these rates.

Among the 38.1 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 who were using contraception in 2002, the three most common methods were birth control pills (30.6 percent), female sterilization (27.0 percent), and condoms (18.0 percent). The popularity of each of these methods varied substantially across age groups. More than 50 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 reported using the pill and roughly 25 percent used condoms. Pill and condom use decreased and female sterilization increased steadily with age. Among women between the ages of 40 and 44, only 11.0 percent reported using the pill and 11.6 percent reported using condoms. The most popular choices among this group were female sterilization (50.2 percent) and male sterilization (18.4 percent).The popularity of contraceptive methods also varied across racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic White women reported using the pill most often, 34.4 percent, while non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women reported using female sterilization most often (38.9 and 33.8 percent, respectively).Among women who do not use contraception, never having had sex or not having sex within 3 months prior to the interview was the most commonly reported reason among women who were never married or who were formerly married (76.6 percent and 49.7 percent). Pregnancy or being postpartum was the most commonly reported reason among women who were currently married or cohabiting (53.3 percent and 50.9 percent).

Graph: Reasons for Contraceptive Non Use Among Women by Marital Status[d]

Graph: Method of Contraception Among Women Currently Using Contraception by Race/Ethnicity[d]