Birth Control Pill Use

Publication Date:

Nov 04, 2018

Key facts about birth control pill use

  • In 2017, birth control pill use among sexually active students reached a two-decade high, with 21 percent of high school students reporting using birth control pills at their most recent sexual intercourse.
  • As of 2017, among sexually active high school students, non-Hispanic white students are far more likely than non-Hispanic black or Hispanic students to report using birth control pills (27 percent, versus 13 and 12 percent, respectively).
  • Reported birth control pill use at most recent sexual intercourse is higher among older youth; in 2017, 27 percent of all sexually active twelfth graders reported using birth control pills, compared with 9 percent of ninth graders.

Trends in birth control pill use

In 2017, 21 percent of sexually active high school students (those reporting they had sex in the three months preceding the survey) reported using birth control pills at their most recent sexual intercourse. From 1991 to 2017 the proportion of sexuality active high school students who reported using birth control fluctuated, peaking at 21 percent in 1991 and 2017 and hitting low points of 16 percent in 1999 and 2007 (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

The percentage of males who report that their partners used birth control pills at most recent sexual intercourse is markedly lower than the percentage of females who report using birth control pills. In 2017, 19 percent of sexually active male high school students reported birth control pill use by their partners, compared with 22 percent of females. This may reflect a real difference, or a lack of knowledge among males regarding their partners’ use of birth control pills (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin1

In 2017, sexually active non-Hispanic white youth were far more likely than non-Hispanic black and Hispanic youth (27 percent, compared with 13 and 12 percent, respectively) to report using birth control pills at most recent sexual intercourse (Appendix 1).

Differences by grade

Reported birth control pill use at most recent sexual intercourse is higher among older youth. In 2017, 9 percent of all sexually active ninth graders reported using birth control pills, compared with 27 percent of twelfth graders. Among females, the proportions were 10 percent of ninth graders and 31 percent of twelfth graders. Among males, the proportions were 7 percent of ninth graders and 23 percent of twelfth graders (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

2017 estimates of birth control use among high school students (Grades 9 to 12) are available for select states and cities from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf (Table 144).

International estimates

• Estimates of birth control use among 15-year-olds in 34 European countries can be found in a summary of the results of the 2013/2014 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study, Health and Policy for Children and Adolescents, no. 7, at
http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/303438/HSBC-No.7-Growing-up-unequal-Full-Report.pdf (page 183).

• Estimates of worldwide birth control pill use from 1982 to 2008 among sexually active married couples are available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf.

Data and appendices

Data source

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). YRBS Youth Online Data Analysis Tool [Data tool]. Retrieved from https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Default.aspx.

Raw data source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyYouth/data/yrbs/index.htm

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Sexually Active Students in Grades 9 to 12 Who Reported Using Birth Control Pills at Most Recent Intercourse: Select Years, 1991-2017

Background

Definition

Among sexually active students (those who reported they had sex in the three months preceding the survey), those who selected “Birth control pills” in response to the question: “The last time you had sexual intercourse, what one method did you or your partner use to prevent pregnancy? (Select only one response.)” Note that students may also use other methods of contraception or protection, such as condoms, whether or not they use birth control pills. In 2017, 9 percent of both male and female high school students reported using both a condom and a hormonal form of birth control at last sexual intercourse.2
Some states are not included in the national estimates because they did not participate in the YRBS. Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have never participated in the YRBS. Other states have participated in the YRBS, but not every year. Information on which states did not participate in the YRBS each year is available at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/2017_hs_participation_history.pdf.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Birth control pill use. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/birth-control-pill-use.

Endnotes

1. Hispanic students may be of any race. Estimates for white and black students in this report do not include Hispanic students.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Youth risk behavior surveillance – United States, 2017 [Table 151]. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 65(6). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf.