Around 65% of women aged 15-49 use birth control, according to a survey conducted from 2017 to 2019 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contraceptive use rates are relatively constant across women of different education levels and races but vary more by age. About 39% of women in the 15-19 age group used contraception, but this rate nearly doubled to about 75% among women in their 40s.
The CDC study only surveyed the contraceptive use of females who identified as women. The type of contraception used by individuals is based on the person’s sex, not their gender. The survey doesn’t account for transgender individuals.
What is birth control?
Birth control, or contraception, refers to various methods used to prevent pregnancy. This includes oral contraceptives (commonly known as “the pill”), male condoms, elective sterilization for both men and women (hysterectomies, tubal ligations, and vasectomies), and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants.
What types of birth control are most common?
The most common type of contraception used by women was hysterectomies/tubal ligations, used by 18.1% of all women. About 14% of women used the pill as their primary form of birth control, 10% used LARCs, and 8% relied on male condoms.
Of the 35% of women not using contraception, half cited not having sex in the past three months as their reason. About a fifth of women who do not use contraception are pregnant, postpartum, or trying to get pregnant.
Does health insurance cover birth control?
Federal law mandates that almost all public and private health insurance plans must cover doctor-prescribed birth control. The law mandates coverage of 18 birth control methods, including the pill, implants, IUDs, and hysterectomies/tubal ligations. The law does not mandate coverage of abortions, vasectomies, or condoms.
Plans sponsored by religious employers such as churches, houses of worship, and nonprofit religious organizations such as religious hospitals or universities can get exemptions from these requirements.
How does birth control use vary?
Women across the US have different birth control preferences and varying access to reproductive health services. As a result, birth control use varies considerably across a number of different factors. Here, we'll explore how birth control use varies by as age, education, and race.
Birth control methods vary by age
The most common type of birth control used by women depends in part on their age. Hysterectomies/tubal ligations increase significantly among older women. Almost 40% of women 40-49 years old use this method, while less than 3% of women under 29 had the procedure.
Several factors can explain this. For example, it’s illegal under federal law for women under 21 to be sterilized. Also, women in their 40s or those with a family history of ovarian cancer may get a tubal ligation (also known as “tying the tubes”) to decrease their risk of developing cancer at some point. About 3% of all births in 2020 were from women in their 40s compared with 47% from women in their 20s and 45% from women in their 30s.
The pill is the most common birth control method used by younger women. Around 20% of women aged 15-29 use oral contraceptives.
Male condom and LARC usage remained constant across age groups, but women in the 20-39 age group were most likely to use these methods.
Women in their 20s are most likely to be using the pill as their primary form of birth control.
Women with more education have hysterectomies/tubal ligations at lower rates than women with less education. About 40% of women without a high school diploma underwent one of these procedures compared with 12% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The use of oral contraception increased with educational attainment. About 6% of women with no high school diploma used the pill compared with 18% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Rates of condom usage hovered just below 10% across all educational levels.
Hysterectomies/tubal ligations decrease as education level increases.
Non-Hispanic white women used the pill at higher rates than Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Black women. Non-Hispanic white women used male condoms as their primary form of birth control at lower rates than Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Black women. Rates of hysterectomies/tubal ligations and LARCs were similar across the three racial groups.
White women use the pill at twice the rate of Hispanic or Black women.