HealthDay News — Use of emergency contraception, such as Plan B,  has more than doubled in recent years, primarily due to large increases in use by women in their early twenties, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Overall, about one in nine women (11%) who participated in the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth used emergency contraception — up from 4.2% in 2002. The majority of women who did so reported using this form of birth control once (59%) or twice (24%).

“Among women who had ever used emergency contraception, nearly equal percentages of women, around 50%, reported having used it because of fear of method failure and because of unprotected sex,” Kimberly Daniels, PhD, from the NCHS in Hyattsville, Md., and colleagues reported in the data brief.

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Daniels and colleagues interviewed more than 12,000 sexually-experienced women in the United States, aged 15 to 44 years during the four year period to ask about their use of emergency contraception, as well as other forms of birth control.

They found that young adult women aged 20 to 24 years were the most likely to have ever used emergency contraception — with one in four, or 23%, reporting use.

Hispanic women (59%) and black women (60%) more often reported using emergency contraception because they had unprotected sex compared with white women (43%). Use for this reason decreased with more education  — from 62% of those with less than a high school education to 43% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Overall contraception use is also up, findings from the same survey published in a separate data brief  indicates. Researchers compared trends from the 2006-2010 time period to earlier rounds of the survey from 1982, 1995 and 2002.

They found the proportion of sexually active women ages 15 through 44 years who reported ever using any form of contraception has steadily increased – from 94.8% in 1982 to 99.1% in 2006 to 2010.

The most common methods that women or their partners had ever used were the male condom (93%), oral contraceptive pills (82%), withdrawal (60%) and the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera (23%).

Increases in condom use were substantial — from 52% in 1982, to 82% in 1995 and to 93.4% in the latest figures — with the researchers citing “heightened awareness and concern for preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV,” as the driving force.

Oral contraceptive use increased from 76% to 82% from 1982 to 1995 and then remained stable at that level in 2002 and 2006–2010.

Other trends include increases in Depo-Provera use from 4.5% to 23% from 1995 to  2006–2010, and contraceptive patch use from 0.9%  to 10% in from 2002 to 2006–2010.

In contrast intrauterine device use peaked at 18% in 1982, fell to 5.8% in 2002, and then increased slightly to 7.7% in 2006-2010.


  1. Daniels K et al. “Contraceptive methods women have ever used: United States, 1982–2010.” NCHS 2013; No 62.
  2. Daniels K et al. “Use of emergency contraception among women aged 15–44: United States, 2006–2010.” NCHS 2013; No 112.