Contraceptive use--United States and territories, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002

MMWR Surveill Summ. 2005 Nov 18;54(6):1-72.


Problem: Contraceptive use is an important determinant of unintended pregnancy. In the United States, approximately half of all pregnancies are unintended. Population-based information about contraceptive use patterns is limited at the state level. Information about contraceptive use for states can be used to guide the development of state programs and policies to decrease unintended pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Information about contraceptive use for specific subpopulations can be used to further refine state efforts to improve contraceptive use and subsequently decrease the occurrence of unintended pregnancy.

Reporting period: Data were collected in 2002 for men and women.

Description of system: The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a random-digit--dialed, telephone survey of the noninstitutionalized U.S. population aged > or =18 years. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands participated in BRFSS in 2002. These data can be used to track state progress towards the national health objectives for 2010 for responsible sexual behavior. The 2002 BRFSS data represent the first time state data on contraceptive use in all 50 states will be presented and examined by selected sociodemographic characteristics. The 2002 BRFSS also, for the first time, provided an opportunity to examine state-level contraceptive use patterns among men.

Results: Variation across states and territories was observed for the majority of contraceptive methods among the different demographics analyzed and among men and women. The percentage of men and women at risk for pregnancy who said they or their partner was using birth control was high overall and ranged from 67% (Guam) to 88% (Idaho). Oral contraceptives (i.e., the pill), vasectomy, tubal ligation, and condoms were the methods most frequently reported by both male and female respondents who said they or their partner was using birth control. Among female respondents using birth control, the pill was the most common method reported. Among men, vasectomy was the most commonly reported method. The prevalence of use for the four most commonly reported methods (pills, vasectomy, tubal ligation, condoms) varied as much as six-fold among states for vasectomy and three- to four-fold for condoms, pills, and tubal ligation.

Interpretation: The findings in this report document substantial differences among states and sociodemographic groups within states in contraceptive method use.

Public health action: These data can help states identify populations with an unmet need for birth control, barriers to birth control use, and gaps in the range of birth control methods offered by health-care providers. An analysis of the prevalence of birth control use by state and selected population characteristics can help states target contraceptive programs to best meet the needs of their population.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception / trends*
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception Behavior / trends*
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate
  • Middle Aged
  • Sterilization, Tubal / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vasectomy / statistics & numerical data


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate