The number of unplanned pregnancies overall in the U.S. has dropped to the lowest point in 30 years, according to a new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine. And not only that but the rate dropped across almost every demographic group, too. But can they keep the rate on the decline, or at least steady?
This is the first study of national trends in unplanned pregnancy since 2008, according to researchers. Between 2001 and 2008, the rate actually increased, causing the U.S. to have one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy among industrialized countries.
The new study looked at changes in unplanned pregnancies from 2008 to 2011. In 2008, more than half of all pregnancies were unintended, at 51 percent. But by 2011, the rate had dropped to less than half, at 45 percent.
The best news from the study? Girls ages 15 to 17 saw a decline of more than 25 percent over the four-year period.
Non-Hispanic whites saw a decrease of 13 percent, while non-Hispanic blacks saw a 15 percent decrease in unplanned pregnancies. Among minorities, Hispanics saw the largest drop at 26 percent. According to the study, Hispanics typically have one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies out of all populations.
Lead author of the report and director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, Lawrence B. Finer told the New York Times the researchers believed that changes in contraceptive use drove the decline.
Long-term birth control methods such as IUDs, implants and contraceptive patches also contributed to the decline, said Finer.
This study shows the first substantial decline in unintended pregnancy rates since they began tracking the data, Finer told the Times. Previously, there were only decreases among advantaged or more well-off groups and increases among the disadvantaged, but now there are drops across the board.
The number of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion during the study was about steady, too; that number rose from 40 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2011.
Unplanned pregnancies were still most common among women and girls who lived at or below the poverty line, and those who were cohabitating with a partner—those women were two to three times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than the national average.
However, the biggest question is, can they keep the unplanned pregnancy trend on a decline? With several states shutting down access to clinics in recent years that serve low-income women, such as Texas, the rate of unplanned pregnancies may see a rise again in the near future as low-income and rural women rely on clinics for contraceptives and other women's health services.