Recession Has Dramatically Reshaped Women’s Childbearing Desires

Amid growing concerns about unemployment and health care, many women have trouble meeting contraceptive needs, according to a Guttmacher Institute survey of the recession’s impact on women’s most personal decisions.

Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute found that because of current economic concerns, nearly half of women surveyed want to delay pregnancy or limit the number of children they have—and for about half of these women, the recession has heightened the focus on effective contraceptive use.


For many, economic hardship means having to skimp on their contraceptive use, for example, by stretching their monthly supply of pills or shifting to a less expensive method—or not using birth control at all—in order to save money.

Nearly one in four women have put off a gynecologic or birth control visit in the past year to save money, and the same proportion report having a harder time paying for birth control than they did in the past.

The report “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions” found that more than one in four women surveyed or their partners have lost jobs or health insurance in the past year, and that 52% say they are financially worse off than they were a year ago.

Not surprisingly, more than half of the women surveyed worry more now about their ability to take care of their children. Among those who say they are financially worse off, three-quarters voice this concern.

“The recession has put many women—including middle-class women who are having trouble making ends meet—in an untenable situation.

They want to avoid unintended pregnancy more than ever, but at the same time are having difficulty affording the out-of-pocket costs of prescription contraception,” says Dr. Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO.

“Unfortunately, while delaying a prescription refill or skipping pills may save women money in the short term, it increases their risk of an unintended pregnancy and results in greater costs related to abortion and unplanned birth later on,” said Camp.

The survey covered a nationally representative sample of nearly 1,000 sexually active, low- and middle-income women to determine how the current economy has affected them and their families.

They were asked about their views of contraceptive use, their ability to access contraceptives, and their decisions on whether or when to have a child. The women were aged 18 to 39 and had annual household incomes of less than $75,000.

The full report, “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions” is available online at

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