(HealthDay News) – The use of emergency contraception has more than doubled in recent years, primarily due to large increases in use by women in their early twenties, according to a February data brief issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Kimberly Daniels, PhD, from the NCHS in Hyattsville, MD, and colleagues interviewed more than 12,000 sexually-experienced women in the United States, aged 15–44, from 2006–2010 to ask about their use of emergency contraception and their use of other forms of birth control.

The researchers found that, overall, about one in nine women (11% or 5.8 million) used emergency contraception between 2006 and 2010, up from 4.2% in 2002. Of these, 59% had used emergency contraception once, and 24% had used it twice. About one in four women (23%) aged 20–24 used emergency contraception at some point.

“Among women who had ever used emergency contraception, nearly equal percentages of women, around 50 percent, reported having used it because of fear of method failure and because of unprotected sex,” the authors write. “Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women and those with less education were more likely to have used emergency contraception because of unprotected sex, compared with women of other characteristics. Older women, non-Hispanic white women, and women with more education more often used emergency contraception because of fear of method failure, compared with women of other characteristics.”

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