Summary: Contraceptive Failure Rates Highest for Women Who are Cohabitating

Among all women, cohabitating women are most likely to experience a contraceptive method failure during the first year of use.

  • Researchers used data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth to investigate which contraceptive users are more likely to have difficulty avoiding unintended pregnancies and whether or not some groups have heightened difficulty with any specific methods. "Contraceptive failure rate," as defined by the researchers, is the proportion of women experiencing unintended pregnancies within the first 6 to 12 months of use. Women living below the poverty threshold experienced a higher probability of contraceptive failure regardless of their age or union status or the method that they used. Additionally, unmarried cohabiting young women exhibited the highest overall failure rate (17%) during the first 12 months of use. Race or ethnicity also played an important factor in contraceptive failure because black women were more likely to experience contraceptive failure compared to Hispanic or white women. Finally, the findings suggested that union status is a more important predictor of contraceptive failure than age. The highest failure rates at almost every age are among unmarried women, especially those who are cohabiting. 1

1Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. Family Planning Perspectives, Volume 31, No. 2 March/April 1999, 56-63.

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