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Health, Science, Environment

Study: Missouri's Unintended Pregnancy Rate Is Dropping

A new report shows Missouri's unintended pregnancy rate has dropped. Some researchers say it could be due to increased usage of long-lasting contraceptives like IUDs.
(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)
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IUDs and implants are 20 times more effective at preventing pregnancy than short-term birth control options like the pill, patch, or vaginal ring (pictured).

A new study released Monday shows Missouri saw a significant decrease in unintended pregnancies in recently measured years.

The Guttmacher Institute’s report "Unintended Pregnancy Rates at the State Level" found Missouri had 54,000 unintended pregnancies in 2010, 11 percent fewer than in 2006. During that time, the state's unintended pregnancy rate - or the number of unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 - declined from 52 in 2006 to 46 in 2010.

Kathryn Kost, the study's author and principal research scientist at the Institute, said Missouri's numbers reflect a national trend since 2002.

"In the latter half of the decade, we’re seeing a large decrease among a number of states, and most of the states we have data for are showing decreases in the unintended pregnancy rate in this latest time period," she said.

While there could be many factors at play, Kost said the decline could be due in part to the growing use of long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs and implants.

“Even just a small increase in the populations of women using these most effective methods can have a big impact on unintended pregnancy rates," she said. Kost also noted the recession could have caused some couples to be "more motivated with their contraceptive use in light of economic conditions."

Though he was not involved in the study, Washington University professor of obstetrics and gynecology Dr. Jeffrey Peipert agrees that the use of these kinds of contraceptives is impacting the unintended pregnancy rate.

This chart shows trends in states' unintended pregnancy rates between 2006 and 2010.
Credit Courtesy of Guttmacher Institute
This chart shows trends in states' unintended pregnancy rates between 2006 and 2010.

"There were three states in the country - Colorado, Iowa and Missouri - that had significant campaigns to increase the use of long-acting, highly effective contraceptive methods," he said.

Peipert said the state also saw a "significant" drop in its abortion rate from 2008 to 2010. Almost one-quarter of unwanted pregnancies ended in abortion in 2008, while two years later, that percentage fell to about one-fifth, according to the Guttmacher report.

The study also found more of Missouri's unintended pregnancies are resulting in a birth, rising from 61 percent in 2006 to 64 percent in 2010. In 2010, 69 percent of unintended pregnancies were described as "mistimed," versus 31 percent as "unwanted." 

"It’s typical, we see this across the states," Kost said. "There’s generally roughly, two-thirds of these unintended pregnancies are mistimed pregnancies, meaning that the women reported that she had wanted to become pregnant later, not at the time she did become pregnant."

She added: "Both birth rates and abortion rates have been declining in recent years, so this is telling us that the pregnancy rate itself is declining, fewer women are becoming pregnant."

But Peipert said unintended pregnancies remains a "major public health problem" that he says costs the state millions of dollars. The Guttmacher report found that a little more than half of all of Missouri’s pregnancies in 2010 were unintended, which Peipert said reflects national numbers. 

"The rate of unintended pregnancy in the U.S. at around 50 percent really hasn’t changed in decades, but these promising trends we’re seeing in states including Missouri may indicate that these trends may change in the U.S.," he said.

For that to happen, Peipert said the public, especially young people, need more education on the most effective contraceptive methods. 

"We want to continue to promote the use of the most effective methods for the people who do not want to become pregnant and to continue public information efforts to make sure everyone has the information they need and access to good, quality, effective contraceptive methods to prevent unintended pregnancy," Kost said.

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