Unintended pregnancy risk and contraceptive use among women 45-50 years old: Massachusetts, 2006, 2008, and 2010

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Little is known about unintended pregnancy risk and current contraceptive use among women ≥45 years old in the United States.

OBJECTIVES:

The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence of women ages 45-50 years old at risk for unintended pregnancy and their current contraceptive use, and to compare these findings to those of women in younger age groups.

STUDY DESIGN:

We analyzed 2006, 2008, and 2010 Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, the only state in the United States to collect contraceptive data routinely from women >44 years old. Women 18-50 years old (n = 4930) were considered to be at risk for unintended pregnancy unless they reported current pregnancy, hysterectomy, not being sexually active in the past year, having a same-sex partner, or wanting to become pregnant. Among women who were considered to be at risk (n = 3605), we estimated the prevalence of current contraceptive use by age group. Among women who were considered to be at risk and who were 45-50 years old (n = 940), we examined characteristics that were associated with current method use. Analyses were conducted on weighted data using SAS-callable SUDAAN (RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC).

RESULTS:

Among women who were 45-50 years old, 77.6% were at risk for unintended pregnancy, which was similar to other age groups. As age increased, hormonal contraceptive use (shots, pills, patch, or ring) decreased, and permanent contraception (tubal ligation or vasectomy) increased as did non-use of contraception. Of women who were 45-50 years old and at risk for unintended pregnancy, 66.9% reported using some contraceptive method; permanent contraception was the leading method reported by 44.0% and contraceptive non-use was reported by 16.8%.

CONCLUSION:

A substantial proportion of women who were 45-50 years old were considered to be at risk for unintended pregnancy. Permanent contraception was most commonly used by women in this age group. Compared with other age groups, more women who were 45-50 years old were not using any contraception. Population-based surveillance efforts are needed to follow trends among this age group and better meet their family planning needs. Although expanding surveillance systems to include women through 50 years old requires additional resources, fertility trends that show increasingly delayed childbearing, uncertain end of fecundity, and potential adverse consequences of unplanned pregnancy in older age may justify these expenditures.

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