More U.S. women are taking the “morning-after” pill, but generally just once, according to the government’s first report on how the emergency contraception drug has been used since regulators eased access to it in 2006.
About 11 percent of sexually active women, or 5.8 million, used the pill between 2006 and 2010, compared to about 4 percent in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its report released on Thursday.
Among those who used the pill during those four years, 59 percent said they took it just once, while 24 percent said they used it twice, the report said. Seventeen percent said they used it three times or more.
The CDC’s findings come amid a renewed fight over birth control access as religious groups push back against President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, which includes a provision requiring health insurance coverage of contraception.
Many conservative groups, including Catholic institutions that oppose use of artificial birth control - especially morning-after pills, are challenging the rule, saying its religious exemption is too narrow.
A separate CDC report, also released on Thursday, found that 99 percent of sexually active women of reproductive age have used some form of contraception, with the use of condoms and longer-term, non-pill methods on the rise.
Morning-after pill use rises in US
Use of the morning-after pill in the US is on the rise, a trend driven largely by wider use among younger women, a major government study has found.
Some 11% of sexually active women had used the morning-after pill, up from 4% in 2002, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One in four women aged 20-24 had used the drug, compared with one in nine women overall.
The CDC surveyed more than 12,000 females aged 15-44 from 2006-10.
The research showed that white and more educated women had used the drug the most, usually because of worries that their other birth control method had failed.
Hispanic and black women were more likely than whites to report using the drug after unprotected sex.
Emergency contraception has been available by prescription in the United States since 1999. One version, known as Plan B, has stirred the most political controversy.
Plan B, much like regular birth control, stops pregnancy by blocking the release of a woman’s egg, or it may prevent fertilization or implantation in the uterus. But it must be taken within days after intercourse to work.
What Is the Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception)?
Emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse.
There are two kinds of emergency contraception:
- a pill, commonly called the morning-after pill. The brand names of the morning-after pill are ella, Next Choice, and Plan B One-Step.
- ParaGard IUD insertion
Both kinds of emergency contraception can be used up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse.
You may want to use it if
- The condom broke or slipped off, and he ejaculated in your vagina.
- You forgot to take your birth control pills, insert your ring, or apply your patch.
- Your diaphragm or cap slipped out of place, and he ejaculated inside your vagina.
- You miscalculated your “safe” days.
- He didn’t pull out in time.
- You weren’t using any birth control.
- You were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved sales of Plan B to adult women without a prescription in 2006 after years of contentious debate. It later allowed sales to 17-year-olds.
Women’s health groups lauded the move as a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But conservatives warned it could lead to promiscuity, especially among youth, and more sexual assaults.
Amy Allina of the National Women’s Health Network said CDC’s findings show morning-after pills are not replacing conventional birth control methods for most women, although “there are some for whom it’s clearly not a one-time thing.”
Activists are still pressing for over-the-counter access with no age restrictions after U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in 2011 took an unprecedented step of intervening in an FDA decision and rejecting the latest petition to loosen sales.
“This data shows the importance of expanding access to emergency contraception to all women of reproductive age,” said Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Critics, who liken the drug to abortion, lamented the findings.
The rise in emergency contraception use “is the sad result of deceptive labeling,” Anna Franzonello, an attorney for Americans United for Life.
The pill is sold by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd as Plan B. It also is available as a generic. In 2010 the FDA approved another emergency contraceptive called ella, a prescription drug now owned by Actavis Inc.