Press Releases

    21 May 2002


    NEW YORK, 16 May (DESA) -- Worldwide, 62 per cent or 650 million of the more than 1 billion married or in-union women of reproductive age are using contraception. In the more developed regions, 70 per cent of married women use a method of contraception, while in the less developed regions 60 per cent do. In Africa, only 25 per cent of married women are using contraception, whereas in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean prevalence of contraceptive use is fairly high -- 66 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively.

    These are some of the key findings of the wall chart entitled "World Contraceptive Use 2001", issued by the United Nations Population Division as part of its ongoing monitoring of world use of family planning. The wall chart presents the most recent data available on the current contraceptive practices for 153 countries and areas of women of reproductive age who are in a marital or consensual union. Included in the tables of the chart are data on the number of women who are married or in a consensual union, the percentage using contraception and the types of methods used at the country, regional and world levels, recent trends in contraceptive use, and the percentage of women whose need for family planning is unmet. Data were compiled primarily from surveys based on nationally representative samples of women aged 15 to 49 and pertain on average to the year 1997.

    The major findings from the wall chart are the following:

    The level of contraceptive use is higher in the more developed regions, where 70 per cent of these regions’ 170 million married or in-union women are using contraception. In comparison, 60 per cent of the 880 million married or in-union women residing in the less developed regions are using contraception. At the world level, 62 per cent of married or in-union women are using contraception.

    The level of contraceptive use is lowest in Africa. Only 25 per cent of the 117 million married women residing in Africa are using contraception. By contrast, the percentage using contraception is fairly high in Asia (66 per cent of 700 million married women) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (69 per cent of 84 million married women).

    Nine out of 10 contraceptive users worldwide rely on modern methods. The most commonly used modern methods are female sterilization (20 per cent of married women), IUDs (15 per cent), and oral pills (8 per cent). Modern methods are considered more effective at preventing pregnancy and require access to family planning services or supplies.

    Short-acting and reversible methods are more popular in the developed countries, whereas longer-acting and highly effective clinical methods are more used in the developing countries. In the developed countries, contraceptive users rely mostly on oral pills (17 per cent of married women) and condoms (15 per cent). In contrast, female sterilization and IUDs, used by 22 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, of married women, dominate in the developing countries.

    Traditional methods are more popular in the developed countries than in the developing countries. They are used by 11 per cent of married couples in the more developed countries compared with just 5 per cent in the developing countries. The higher prevalence of traditional method use in developed countries accounts for much of the difference between developed and developing countries in contraceptive use. The most used traditional methods include rhythm (periodic abstinence) and withdrawal. In the world as a whole, these methods are used by 6 per cent of married women.

    Contraceptive use has increased substantially over the past decade. In the developing countries, the percentage using contraception increased by at least 1 percentage point per annum in 68 per cent of the countries, and by at least 2 percentage points per annum in 15 per cent of the countries. In Africa, the percentage using contraception among married women increased from around 15 per cent 10 years ago to 25 per cent today; in Asia, from around 52 per cent to 66 per cent; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, from around 57 per cent to 69 per cent. Developed countries show little growth in levels of contraceptive use over the past decade, as a result of their already high contraceptive prevalence.

    High levels of unmet need for family planning remain in the developing countries, despite their recent rapid growth in the use of contraception. An average of 24 per cent of married women in sub-Saharan Africa need family planning (because they want no more children or want to delay their next pregnancy by two years or more), but who, for various reasons such as not knowing where to get a method or fear of side effects, are not using any method of contraception. In Northern Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, the need for family planning is lower at around 18 per cent. In Europe, this percentage is below 10 per cent on average.

    Data presented in the wall chart are for women of reproductive age who are married or in a consensual union only because comparative information is more widely available for married populations than for unmarried ones, and for women than for men. Also, data reflect the primary or most effective method used with the spouse or regular partner. That is, when a respondent reports that she is currently using a combination of methods, only the most effective method is registered. This may explain in part, for example, why condom use is much higher in the more developed regions than in the less developed regions (15 per cent and 3 per cent of married women, respectively, are reporting that their partners are using condoms). In the more developed regions, when condom use is reported to be a couple’s contraceptive method, it is usually the primary method used. In the less developed regions, apart from being less frequently used, condoms tend to be used in conjunction with another more effective method. Finally, studies have shown that reported use of condoms is higher if respondents are asked about use with any partner rather than with just the regular partner.

    Further information may be obtained from the office of Joseph Chamie, Director, Population Division, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, USA; tel. 1-212-963-3179; fax 1-212-963-2147.


    * *** *