Contraceptive Use in the United States

Sep 01, 2016
  • Description


  • There are 61 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (15–44). About 43 million of them (70%) are at risk of unintended pregnancy—that is, they are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they and their partners fail to use a contraceptive method correctly and consistently.
  • Couples who do not use any method of contraception have an approximately 85% chance of experiencing a pregnancy over the course of a year.
  • In the United States, the average desired family size is two children. To achieve this family size, a woman must use contraceptives for roughly three decades.


  • More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.
  • Some 62% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method.
  • Ten percent of women at risk of unintended pregnancy are not currently using any contraceptive method.
  • The proportion of women at risk who are not using a method is highest among 15–19-year-olds (18%) and lowest among women aged 40–44 (9%).
  • Eighty-three percent of black women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy currently use a contraceptive method, compared with 91% of their Hispanic and white peers, and 90% of their Asian peers.
  • Among women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy, 92% of those with incomes of 300% or more of the federal poverty level are currently using contraceptives, as are 89% of those living at 0–149% of the poverty line.
  • A much higher proportion of married women than of never-married women use a contraceptive method (77% vs. 42%), largely because married women are more likely to be sexually active. But even among those at risk of unintended pregnancy, contraceptive use is higher among currently married women than among never-married women (93% vs. 83%).
  • Unmarried cohabitors fall between married women and unmarried women who are not cohabiting with their partner: Ninety percent of at-risk cohabitors use a method.
  • Contraceptive use is common among women of all religious denominations. Eighty-nine percent of at-risk Catholics and 90% of at-risk Protestants currently use a contraceptive method. Among sexually experienced religious women, 99% of Catholics and Protestants have ever used some form of contraception.
  • Knowledge about contraceptive methods is a strong predictor of use among young adults: In a 2012 study among unmarried women aged 18–29, for each correct response on a contraceptive knowledge scale, women's odds of currently using a hormonal or long-acting reversible method increased by 17%, and their odds of using no method decreased by 17%.


  • Sixty-seven percent of women who practice contraception currently use nonpermanent methods, primarily hormonal methods (the pill, patch, implant, injectable and vaginal ring), IUDs and condoms. The rest rely on female (25%) or male (8%) sterilization.
  • The pill and female sterilization have been the two most commonly used methods since 1982.