Making birth control better, safer, and more accessible for women

Birth control pills

In the United States, 62 million women are in their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). About 70% of them are at risk of unintended pregnancy.1

Because women typically use contraception for more than a third of their lives2, having safe and effective options is important. The FDA monitors the safety and effectiveness of birth control methods and may limit the use of a contraceptive method or remove it from the market entirely. In 1988, for example, the FDA withdrew birth control pills with more than 50 micrograms of the female hormone estrogen after reports of an increased risk for rare but fatal blood clots.3

Since 1984, the FDA has approved many new forms of contraception, giving women more options. In addition to male condoms and oral contraceptive pills, women can now choose from hormonal vaginal rings, shots, a skin patch, female condoms, IUDs, and implants.4 Today, some types of contraceptives can control acne and reduce menstrual pain and heavy periods, in addition to preventing pregnancy.5

Since 1995, the proportion of women who use a long-acting, reversible contraceptive method—such as implants, shots, the patch, the ring, and the IUD – has increased.6 These methods became more available in the 1990s, and they are associated with lower rates of unintended pregnancies compared with most other methods.7

Cost should no longer be a barrier. Since 1970, Title X family planning centers, administered by OPA, have provided birth control and other family planning services to low-income women. These clinics help avert an estimated 1 million unintended pregnancies each year.8 Since 1972, states have been required to provide family planning services and supplies to people on Medicaid.9 Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, insurance plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace and many other plans must cover FDA-approved birth control prescribed by a woman’s doctor without cost-sharing.

Sources

  1. CDC, Current Contraceptive Use in the United States, 2006–2010, and Changes in Patterns of Use Since 1995
  2. The White House Council on Women and Girls, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward
  3. FDA, HIV/AIDS Historical Time Line 1981-1990
  4. FDA, Birth Control: Medicines To Help You
  5. OPA, Birth Control Pill Fact Sheet
  6. CDC, Current Contraceptive Use in the United States, 2006–2010, and Changes in Patterns of Use Since 1995
  7. CDC, Current Contraceptive Use in the United States, 2006–2010, and Changes in Patterns of Use Since 1995
  8. OPA, Title X Family Planning
  9. CMS, RE: Family Planning Services Option and New Benefit Rules for Benchmark Plans