American Women and Contraception

Although women haven’t been the most outspoken on these subjects, I was curious to find out what U.S. women are actually doing. Here is what I found out from the Guttmacher Institute.

It’s private and personal…our religious beliefs, our politics, and birth control.  These days it’s front page news. Although women haven’t been the most outspoken on these subjects, I was curious to find out what U.S. women are actually doing. Here is what I found out from the Guttmacher Institute:

Facts on Contraceptive Use in the United States

  • There are approximately 62 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (15–44).
  • Seven in 10 women of reproductive age (43 million women) are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant.  
  • The typical U.S. woman wants only two children. To achieve this goal, she must use contraceptives for roughly three decades.


  • Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.  
  • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using a method.  
  • Among the 43 million fertile, sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing contraception.  

For more information see the full report at: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html

Contraceptive Use is the Norm Among Religious Women

Contraceptive use by Catholics and Evangelicals—including those who attend religious services most frequently—is the norm

“In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible,” says Rachel K. Jones, the report’s lead author. “Most sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant practice contraception and most use highly effective methods like sterilization, the pill, or the IUD. This is true for Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants, and it is true for Catholics, despite the Catholic hierarchy’s strenuous opposition to contraception.”

Sound public policy making should recognize this and support women by making contraceptives easier and more affordable to use. Health policy should not serve as a proxy for religious dogma.”

The report’s key findings include the following points:

  • Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same among Catholic women (98%).
  • Among sexually active women of all denominations who do not want to become pregnant, 69% are using a highly effective method (i.e., sterilization, the pill or another hormonal method, or the IUD).
  • Some 68% of Catholic women use a highly effective method, compared with 73% of Mainline Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals.
  • Only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning; this is true even among Catholic women who attend church once a month or more.
  • More than four in 10 Evangelicals rely on male or female sterilization, a figure that is higher than among the other religious groups.

Click here for Countering Conventional Wisdom: Religion and Contraceptive Use, by Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Dreweke.


About the Guttmacher Institute

Four decades after its creation, the Guttmacher Institute continues to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights through an interrelated program of research, policy analysis and public education designed to generate new ideas, encourage enlightened public debate and promote sound policy and program development. The Institute’s overarching goal is to ensure the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health for all people worldwide.

The Institute produces a wide range of resources on topics pertaining to sexual and reproductive health, including Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Guttmacher Policy Review. In 2009, Guttmacher was designated an official Collaborating Center for Reproductive Health by the World Health Organization and its regional office, the Pan American Health Organization.

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Robert Way February 27, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Wendy, I am struggling a bit to understand your point here (long weekend, a little punchy I guess). The way I am reading you here is just because a very large group of people use something (a preventive service/product in this case) it should be covered in a Healthcare Policy. Please correct me if I am interpreting your comment here, I just want to make sure I am clear before I reply based on a false interpretation.
Robert Way February 27, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Wendy, I would like to second your thanks to Peggy for be willing to put herself out there on this topic. As you mentioned earlier, these are understandably very sensitive subjects for men and women, but perhaps women especially, which is why I am trying to respectfully discuss the topic as I see it with objective substance. I would hope both you and Peggy recognize that effort on my part and continue to engage. Thanks to both of you ladies.....
Wendy Trager February 27, 2012 at 01:25 AM
@ Robert thank you. I did not mention health care coverage in my article, however I did attach the hearing videos from you tube because women were not represented. My intention was to show other women and men that we are using birth control even if we belong to religions that are against it. As an American woman (I do not feel comfortable speaking for all, just myself) I literally woke up a few months ago questioning my political affiliation, my beliefs and wanted to see if I was the only woman who felt this way.
Wendy Trager February 27, 2012 at 01:33 AM
For the record, I am currently without a formal religion, and unsure of my political affiliation. I do suffer from Polycyctic Ovarian syndrome which is one of the conditions treated by hormonal birth control. I am no longer in my child bearing years (47 years old) and do feel birth control has health benefits in and of themselves, by allowing women to space their children, to time when they have children. Which maybe subject we can discuss in another blog after I do my research :).
Wendy Trager February 27, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Oh Robert I realized you were refering to my comment regarding group insurance. It's what made me do the research to begin with to find out what women were doing.


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