The pill and sterilization are the leading methods of birth control in the U.S.

A growing percentage of U.S. women are using intrauterine devices, or IUDs, but the pill and female sterilization still lead the contraceptive pack, as they have for nearly a quarter of a century, government researchers reported Wednesday.”We seem to be stuck in a pattern here,” says lead author William Mosher, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Mosher and co-author Jo Jones based their estimates of contraceptive use on in-person interviews with 7,346 women ages 15 to 44 who participated in the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth. The survey was last conducted in 2002.

In both the latest and the previous survey, 82% of women who’d ever had sex with a man said they had used birth control pills at some point in their lives. Overall, Mosher and Jones estimate, 10.7 million U.S. women ages 15 to 44 currently use the pill, slightly more than the 10.3 million who chose to be sterilized. The pill and female sterilization have been the two leading birth-control methods in the USA since the 1982 National Survey of Family Growth.

Considering that half of all pregnancies are unintended, Mosher says, “contraception use in the United States is not as effective as it could be.”

Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, were used by nearly one in five women in the 1982 survey, or 18.2%, at some point. By 2002, though, only 5.8% had, due to the Dalkon Shield debacle. That IUD, whose design was blamed for thousands of pelvic infections and spontaneous abortions and some deaths, was pulled off the market in 1974, but it tainted all IUDs for years afterward.

“There probably was a generation of women who were just not going to use the IUD no matter what because of what happened,” says Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based non-profit focused on sexual and reproductive health.

In the 2006-2008 survey, 7.4% of women said they had used an IUD at some point, about a 28% increase over 2002. “This is probably the beginning of an upward trend in IUD use,” Finer says.

Still, says economist James Trussell, director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, “we had hoped that IUD use had gone up more than it did. We still have a long way to go.” Trussell’s research has shown that the IUD, which can be left in the uterus for up to 10 years, is the most cost-effective contraceptive.

In his mind, Trussell says, the report’s most encouraging finding was an increase in the proportion of women who used contraception the first time they had premarital intercourse. That figure, which was less than 55% before 1985, rose from 76% in 2000-2004 to 84% in 2005-2006, due mostly to an increase in the use of the male condom.

Via USA Today