Among sexually experienced women ages 15 to 44 during a period spanning 2006 through 2010, 11% (5.8 million women) ever had used emergency contraception, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The 11% figure is a significant increase over the 4.2% who reported ever having used contraception based on 2002 data, according to the NCHS, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Women ages 20 to 24 were most likely to have used emergency contraception, with 23% having done so. Almost one in five never-married women (19%), one in seven cohabiting women (14%) and one in 20 married or formerly married women (5.7%) had used emergency contraception.
Most women who ever had used emergency contraception had done so once (59%) or twice (24%). Commonly cited reasons for using emergency contraception were having had unprotected sex (49%) and fear of method failure (45%).
Emergency contraception can be used by women after sexual intercourse to prevent an unintended pregnancy. About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, according to information in the report.
Although insertion of a copper intrauterine device can be used for emergency contraception, the report focuses only on emergency contraceptive pills. The Food and Drug Administration approved emergency contraceptive pills in 1998; evidence suggests that limited use of hormonal contraceptives for emergency contraception dates back to the 1960s.
There are at least four brands of emergency contraceptive pills, most available over the counter for women ages 17 and older, according to information in the report.
The report is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db112.htm.