A new federal study from the National Center for Health Statistics released today finds that the pill and sterilization are still the most popular birth control methods, but other hormonal methods like the patch, the ring, and the IUD are on the rise. The National Center for Health Statistics surveyed approximately 12,000 American women ages 15-44 about their use of birth control between 2006 and 2010. They compared the new data to a similar sample of about 10,000 women from 1995.

The study found that women’s use of daily birth control pills and sterilization remained almost constant, both hovering around 27% each. However, condom use as a sole form of birth control is on the decline, while the use of other hormonal methods like the patch and the ring, and other “long-acting” methods like the IUD, are on the rise. In fact, use of longer acting hormonal birth control like the patch and ring has increased 75% since 1995, and IUD use has increased by an astounding 600%.

“There is some shift toward more effective contraception. The shift is also toward methods that require less user intervention,” Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the New York City non-profit Guttmacher Institute, said to USA Today. Finer also published a study earlier this month, finding that the proportion of women using long-acting birth control methods “increased significantly” since 2002. This shift occurred among women in almost every demographic.

Despite the drastic jump in use of these longer-acting and more effective methods of birth control, the reality is that these methods still make up a relatively small percentage of birth control use- with only 7% of respondents using the patch or ring and only 5.6% using the IUD. The author of the report notes that the form of birth control used by women varies depending on their insurance coverage and income. Although the long-acting IUD is a more effective form of contraception than the pill, co-pays for IUDs have not typically been covered under insurance plans, which caused them to cost up to a thousand dollars up front and out of pocket.

Under the Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision, employer-based insurance plans are required to cover all forms of birth control without a co-pay. This provision of the Affordable Care Act went into effect on August 1st, 2012. The Guttmacher Institute also released a study finding that IUD use is increasing among US women, and that removing cost barriers significantly increases the number of women choosing the most effective method of contraception, rather than the most cost-effective.

Media Resources: USA Today 10/18/12; ThinkProgress 10/18/12; National Center for Health Statistics Study -Current Contraceptive Use in the United States; Testimony of Guttmacher Institute Submitted to the Committee on Preventive Services for Women

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