Md. unintended pregnancy rate drops, but remains higher than national average

By Zainab Mudallal

Capital News Service

Pregnant woman drawing

(By Jerome Ware/Flickr)

Maryland’s rate of unintended pregnancies declined during the last decade, but more than half of all pregnancies in the state are still unplanned, according to estimates released this month.

The percent of unintended pregnancies in Maryland dropped from 60% to 56% between 2002 and 2008 – a 4 percentage point decrease – according to a a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance sexual and reproductive health.

Despite the decline, Maryland’s percent of unintended pregnancies remained 5% higher than the national average.  In 2008, the most recent year for which detailed data was available, 49% of the pregnancies in the United States were unintended.

In that same year, 48% of unintended pregnancies in Maryland resulted in births, 39% in abortions and 13% in fetal losses, according to Guttmacher

Reasons for the decrease

The decrease can be attributed to a decline in sexual activity and a greater use of effective birth control methods, specifically among teenagers, said Helen P. Koo, a senior research demographer who has conducted research on unintended pregnancies and contraception at RTI International, a nonprofit organization.

“Teens contribute to the biggest portion of unintended pregnancy,” Koo said. “They have a very high rate because when they’re pregnant, in almost all cases they’re not wanting it.”

Maryland’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped 51% since 1988, compared with a 39% decrease nationally, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

UPDATED 9/18, 9 p.m.: There were 69,000 unintended pregnancies in Maryland; of those, about 33,000 resulted in live births and 27,000 were aborted, while about 9,000 of the fetuses were lost during pregnancy.

The decline in teen pregnancy can be attributed to increased education, family planning groups said. Planned Parenthood has reached out to teens on contraception and family planning by expanding education programs and providing more peer educators, said David Hale, vice president for external relations of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

“There has been a historic decline in the teen birth rate,” Hale said. “And we believe we have contributed to part of that through our education program.”

Decline in unintended pregnancy reduces infant mortality

“Unintended pregnancy rates have poor birth outcomes,” said Ilise Marrazzo, director of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The state’s infant mortality rate has hit a new record low partly due to the decline of unintended pregnancies.”

Women with the fewest years of education have the highest unintended pregnancy rate, according to the institute.  Over the last decade, more women in Maryland graduated from high school and college, helping to reduce the rate.

Between 2005 and 2011, the percentage of Maryland women with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 33.1 to 36.9%, and from 87.8 to 89.6% for high school and higher, according to the U.S. Census.

In addition to teens, low-income women and African-American women have higher than average unintended pregnancy rates.  The rate for poor women is more than five times the rate for women earning the most money, according to Guttmacher.  And poor women often cannot afford effective birth control methods.

 Reducing pregnancies reduces costs

The Choice Project, a research project by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that examined the financial barriers to contraception, found that when cost is not a factor, women chose the most effective methods of contraception. Maryland officials have attempted to help poor women by giving them low-cost access to birth control and family planning.

Marrazzo said expanding the Title X Family Planning program – a federal grant program dedicated to family planning and reproductive health for low-income and uninsured patients – is giving more low-income women access to family planning and alternative methods of contraception, such as implants, IUDs and long-acting reversible contraception.

“No one is ever turned away because of inability to pay,” she said.

Publicly supported family planning and contraceptive services like Title X helped avert 22,300 unintended pregnancies in the state in 2010, saving the federal and state government $139 million in Medicaid costs, according to Guttmacher.

Maryland saw a 19% increase in the number of clinics providing these publicly supported family planning services from 2001 to 2010, according to Guttmacher.

Marrazzo said she was hopeful the unintended pregnancy rate will continue to decrease as a result of the 2012 state Medicaid expansion that guarantees insured women access to family planning services and contraception without co-pays.  And with more women expected to be covered by the Affordable Care Act in 2014, the rate will continue to decline, she said.

“The hope is that when more women become insured, they will be able to utilize the most effective methods of contraception and reduce unintended pregnancy,” Marrazzo said.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Konabianca

    The Guttmacher Institute was founded by a former president of Planned Parenthood and served as the abortion profiteer’s research department for many years. It still receives money from the abortion behemoth. To conceal Guttmacher’s connection to the abortion business is to conceal its agenda and dupe your readers.

    • lenlazarick

      I thought of adding something about the connection to Planned Parenthood. But it turns out that connection lasted only from 1968 to 1977, when Guttmacher became independent. According to its latest annual report, much of it funding comes from U.S., international and foreign government agencies, from foundations and from individual donors. There is no mention of any funds from Planned Parenthood. So it turns out it was not Capital News Service or Maryland Reporter attempting to dupe our readers, but the anonymous Konabianca. It turns out she is helping fund Guttmacher through her tax dollars.

  2. unsatisfied

    Be awful nice if you would actually report the raw number of annual pregnancies, intended and unintended, in Maryland.

    • lenlazarick

      Agreed, and I’ve added a line underneath the chart with those numbers.

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