Good news for everyone with a uterus (and their partners): Unplanned pregnancy rates are way down, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute. We're talking the lowest they've been since the researchers first began tracking this type of data in 1981. (Not trying to have a baby? We have 3 Birth Control Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor.)
The findings, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found a reversal in a scary trend that had been occurring since the start of the millennium. Between 2001 and 2008, unintended pregnancy rates in the United States were not only on the rise but were higher than most industrialized countries. Not good.
But the latest research, which analyzed data between 2008 and 2011, found that less than half (45 percent, to be exact) of pregnancies were unintended in 2011, compared to 51 percent of accidental pregnancies in 2008. And among 15- to 17-year-old girls, the number dropped by more than 25 percent. That's huge when you consider the impact teen pregnancy has on women's health outcomes, education, and earning potential.
There's a notable caveat to the otherwise optimistic news: Poor women and women of color are still more likely than their affluent, white counterparts to experience an unintended pregnancy. Although according to this most recent analysis, that gap is narrowing.
So what's to thank for the 30-year low? The researchers credit increased access to birth control (yay reproductive rights!) and long-lasting (but still reversible) methods—namely the IUD. We know the IUD sounds intimidating, but as we said in Is an IUD the Best Birth Control Option for You?, the one-and-done birth control method lasts five to 10 years, depending on the kind you get. Pretty small margin for human error. Still not convinced? See: What You Know About IUDs May Be All Wrong.