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More women using morning-after pill, report finds

The condom is still king when it comes to matters of love, but more U.S. women are using newer methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy such as emergency contraception and implants, new federal data shows.

About 11 percent of all women have used emergency birth control such as the “Plan B” pill, and 59 percent of them had only used it a single time, the National Center for Health Statistics reported on Thursday.

About half of women reported using the morning-after pill because they feared a method they were already using, such as a condom, had failed, and 49 percent said they used it because they had unprotected sex, Kimberly Daniels and colleagues at NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported.

As for more traditional birth control, numbers have held steady since the 1990s, with 82 percent of women saying they have used birth control pills, the NCHS report finds.

Condoms are by far the most popular method of birth control, something that makes sexual health experts happy, because they help protect against sexually transmitted diseases as well. “The proportion of females who’ve had a male partner use a condom rose from 52 percent in 1982, to 82 percent in 1995, and 93.4 percent in 2006-2010,” the report reads.

But more women are opting for longer-lasting methods of birth control, such as patches or implants, the NCHS found.

“The percentage who’ve ever used Depo-Provera, a 3-month injectable contraceptive, has increased from 4.5 percent of women in 1995 to 23 percent in 2006-2010,” the NCHS said in a statement.

About 10 percent have tried a birth control patch, up from just 1 percent in 2002, while 6.3 percent of women have used a contraceptive ring. That’s a circular device impregnated with birth control hormones and inserted into the vagina.

Fewer women are using IUDs, which are devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Even though gynecologists say they are highly effective and safe, only 7.7 percent of women said they used one between 2006 and 2010, compared to 18 percent of women in 1982.

And while 17 percent of women had tried using a diaphragm in 1982, just 3 percent had in the latest survey.

The NCHS report uses data from 12,000 women surveyed by the federal government between 2006 and 2010. “Virtually all women of reproductive age in 2006–2010 who had ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lifetime (99 percent, or 53 million women aged 15–44),” the report reads.

Catholic women also use birth control heavily, even though their church leaders forbid it. The survey found that 89 percent of Catholic women said they had used a condom at least once, and 76 percent had used birth control pills.

Despite this heavy use of birth control, half of all births in the United States are unintended, the CDC says – a higher rate than in any other developed country.

Obama administration rules now require health insurers to provide birth control care for free, without even a co-pay.

Experts say these rules should bring down unintended pregnancy rates. They say efforts to make birth control more easily available are already having an effect – a report out earlier this week found that teen pregnancy rates have plunged 49 percent since 1991.

Laura Lindberg, a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, says it helps that fewer doctors now require teenagers to get full pelvic exams before they will prescribe birth control. New federal guidelines say a woman doesn’t need such an exam before she’s 21, even if she is sexually active.

“We think that’s lowered what we call the psychic barrier to getting prescription contraception methods,” Lindberg said. “For teenaged girls that first (exam) can be frightening.”

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