Roughly one half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. That's according to research included in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That report also shows that more women are using the morning after emergency contraceptive pill in the last decade. Our Katie Gibas spoke with experts about history of the drug and the reason for the jump.
UNITED STATES -- The birth control pill was approved for contraceptive use in 1960. Emergency contraception unofficially dates back that early as well, but wasn't widely available.
"We've put in a lot of barriers for easy access to contraception, which has led us to a 50 percent unintended pregnancy rate. Our unintended pregnancy rate is in line with many third world countries," said Dr. Renee Mestad, Upstate University Hospital OB/GYN.
It wasn't until 1998 that the FDA approved the emergency contraceptive or morning after pill. The latest pills work by delaying ovulation so the egg can't be fertilized.
"It actually makes an enormous difference because it helps with those panicked 'Oh my God the condom broke' moments," said Mestad.
A CDC report released earlier this month analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth, which looks at emergency contraception use. As of 2010, six million, or 11 percent, of U.S. women between the ages of 15 and 44 had used emergency contraception. That's up from 4.2 percent in 2002.
"The increased use is not because women are being more irresponsible and not using more reliable methods,” said Mestad. "It's actually more that women know it exists and are actually being responsible when their other methods have failed. They understand that there is a second choice or plan B or one other method for them to prevent pregnancy."
Health experts say the increase in use of the pill is because it is more widely available to people. In 2006, the FDA approved it for women 17 and older without a prescription.
"I do want to see more physicians promoting it. I do want to see it more often in the emergency rooms. There's a few universities that have vending machines that access to both condoms and the emergency contraception. It should really as easy to access as a condom," said Mestad.
The study showed that 59 percent of people who had used the morning after pill had only used it once. The majority of people who used it were between the ages of 15 and 29.
Medical experts continue to pressure the FDA make it available without a prescription for everyone.
Even though the morning after pills are available without a prescription, they are located behind the pharmacy counter. Costs range from $10 to $50.