Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs or ECs), otherwise known as the “morning-after pill,” are drugs that stop ovulation or fertilization in an attempt to prevent pregnancy. They are designed to be taken after unprotected sex, or in the event of traditional contraceptive failure (for example, a broken condom).
Plan B is the common name for a progestin-only version of the emergency contraceptive pill.
The number of U.S. women using the “morning-after” contraception pill has risen dramatically in the last decade, federal health officials report.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.2 percent of women in 2002 said they had used the pill, but between 2006 and 2010 that figure had jumped to 11 percent, which translates to 5.8 million women who were between 15 and 44 years old.
The pill, considered emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, was particularly popular among young women between 20 and 24 years old, who accounted for 23 percent of users, the government report found.
The report, released Wednesday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics using data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, also found:
Non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women were more likely to have used emergency contraception, 11 percent, compared with non-Hispanic black women, 7.9 percent.
16 percent of users were between the ages of 25 to 29, 14 percent were teens 15 to 19 years old, and only 5 percent were 30 or older.
19 percent of the women who used the pill weren’t married, and 14 percent lived with a partner.
The most common reasons for using the pill were a woman’s fear that the contraceptive she was using might not work, or because she had unprotected sex.
Most of the women who took the morning-after pill had used it only once; 24 percent used it twice, and 17 percent had used it at least three times.