The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)'s National Center for Health Statistics has issued two new reports about contraceptive use among U.S. women. Not only did the organization find that use of emergency contraception has increased, but that 99 percent of sexually active American women have used birth control of some kind, making it essentially important, they said, for methods of contraception to be affordable and readily available.

The first report examined the use of emergency contraception (EC) among women ages 15-44 between 2006 and 2010 and found that the rate of use has gone up sharply to 11 percent from 4.2 percent in 2002.

Luisa Cabal of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a press release that the results confirm that all kinds of women use EC, whether they've had unsafe sex or other birth control methods have failed. Commonly called the "morning after pill," EC actually prevents pregnancy by halting the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine wall.

The fact that so many women from so many walks of life have needed EC is "exactly why we have been fighting a decade-long legal battle with the federal government to lift its arbitrary and medically unnecessary restrictions on emergency contraception," Cabal said, adding that EC should be "available over the counter without prescription for women of all ages.”

Under current laws, EC is only available to women under 17 by prescription. Women over 17 can only get the drug at health clinics and pharmacies by requesting it and they must present a photo ID.

The second CDC report studied trends in birth control use from 1982 to 2010 and found that 99 percent of sexually experienced women of reproductive age between 2006 and 2010 used some form of birth control.

“Safe and effective contraception is an issue and expense that confronts millions of women in the United States—underlining the clear benefits of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all health insurance plans provide the full range of contraceptives to women without a copay,” Cabal said. “Broadening access to affordable birth control options—including emergency contraception—reinforces every woman’s fundamental right to make her own decisions about her family, her health, and her future.”

Planned Parenthood for America issued a press release in which senior director of medical services Deborah Nucatola said, "This data underscores what we see at Planned Parenthood health centers every day — that birth control is central to women’s health and that they must have access to a full range of methods."

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that the rate of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. is down since 2009, meaning that fewer women need abortions or are having children unexpectedly. Unintended pregnancies can play havoc on a family's finances and on the health of both mother and child. The Guttmacher institute said, "Births resulting from unintended or closely spaced pregnancies are associated with adverse maternal and child health outcomes, such as delayed prenatal care, premature birth and negative physical and mental health effects for children."

[image via Flickr Commons]