Birth control methods are failing less, study finds


IUDs, shown above, had the lowest failure rate of common birth control methods at 1 percent. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2012 Sarah Mirk

A study released Feb. 28 by the Guttmacher Institute found that the failure rates for the most common forms of birth control (the pill, condoms and IUDs) are declining in the United States.

In 2002, the last time this data was collected, the failure rate for birth control methods was 12 percent. Between 2006-10, that failure rate decreased to 10 percent. This data coincided with the decline in the rate of unintended pregnancies—with 45 percent of American women reporting in 2011 that their pregnancies were not planned, down 6 percent since just three years prior.

The IUD and the birth control implant reported a 1 percent failure rate—the lowest of all contraception methods. Withdrawal had the highest rate at 20 percent, followed by a 13 percent failure rate for condoms.

While some conservative lawmakers and activists wage a war against abortion and birth control as a combined front, the increasing reliability of birth control has also coincided with the decreasing abortion rates. In fact, the number of abortions in recent years has dropped to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

In 1973, there were 16.3 abortions for every 1,000 women, according to another study by the Guttmacher Institute. In 2014, the most recent year for this data, there were 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women.

“We’re seeing declines in abortion rates,” Kathryn Kost, a co-author of the report, told NPR.  “We’re seeing declines in birth rates. So we know that American women are not getting pregnant unintentionally at the same levels that we had been observing.”

The declining failure rates for birth control should be a celebratory win for both sides of the political aisle. More successful birth control means less unintended pregnancies, which means less abortions—something we should all agree is a positive. It is vital that access to birth control remains open, and that access is improved for many women—especially low-income women of color—who still struggle to obtain quality birth control choices.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s