Press Release

United Nations           Department of Public Information . News and Media Services Division . New York

 

                                                                                                            DEV/2469

                                                                                                                        POP/902

                                                                                                                        21 April 2004

 

 

MAJORITY OF WORLD’S COUPLES OF REPRODUCTIVE AGE ARE USING CONTRACEPTION

 

 

New York, 20 April (DESA) -– Worldwide, 61 per cent of all women of reproductive age who are married or in a consensual union are using contraception.  This percentage amounts to 635 million of the more than 1 billion women aged 15-49 who are married or in union.  In the more developed regions, 69 per cent of those women use a method of contraception, while in the less developed regions 59 per cent do. In Africa, the corresponding percentage is a low 27 per cent, whereas in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean the equivalent proportions are much higher, at 64 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively.

 

These are some of the key findings presented in the wall chart on World Contraceptive Use 2003, issued by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division as part of its ongoing monitoring of the use of family planning at the world level.  The wall chart presents the most recent data available on the current contraceptive practice for 160 countries and areas. Indicators presented include the number of women of reproductive age who are married or in a consensual union, the percentage using contraception and the distribution by type of method used. Also displayed are 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 refer, on average, to the year 1998.

 

The major findings illustrated by the wall chart are the following:

 

The level of contraceptive use is higher in the more developed regions where 69 per cent of the 170 million women aged 15-49 who are married or in a consensual union are using contraception.  In the less developed regions the equivalent figure is 59 per cent of the 873 million women of reproductive age who are married or in union.  At the world level, 61 per cent of women in that category are using contraception.

 

The level of contraceptive use is lowest in Africa.  Only 27 per cent of the 117 million women of reproductive age who are married or in union in Africa are using contraception.  By contrast, the percentage using contraception is fairly high in Asia (64 per cent of 689 million women who are married or in union) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (71 per cent of 82 million women who are married or in union).

 

Nine out of every 10 women using contraception rely on modern methods.  The most commonly used modern methods are female sterilization (21 per cent of women who are married or in union), IUDs (14 per cent), and oral pills (7 per cent).  Modern methods are more effective at preventing pregnancy and must generally be obtained from family planning services or suppliers.


Short-acting and reversible contraceptive methods are more popular in developed countries, whereas longer-acting and highly effective clinical contraceptive methods are more commonly used in developing countries.  In developed countries, contraceptive users rely mostly on oral pills (used by 16 per cent of women who are married or in union) and condoms (used by 13 per cent).  In contrast, female sterilization and IUDs, used by 23 per cent and 15 per cent of women who are married or in union, respectively, are the mostly commonly used methods in developing countries.

 

Traditional methods are more popular in developed countries than in developing countries.  Those methods are used by 13 per cent of women who are married or in union in developed countries compared with just 6 per cent in developing countries.  The higher prevalence of use of traditional methods in developed countries accounts for much of the difference in contraceptive use between developed and developing countries.  The most commonly used traditional methods are: rhythm (periodic abstinence) and withdrawal.  At the world level, these methods are used by 6 per cent of women who are married or in union.

 

Contraceptive use has increased substantially over the past decade. The percentage using contraception increased by at least 1 percentage point per year in 56 per cent of all developing countries, and by at least 2 percentage points per year in 16 per cent of all developing countries.  In Africa, the percentage of contraceptive users increased from 17 per cent in 1990 to 28 per cent in 2000; in Asia, from 57 per cent to 65 per cent; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, from 62 per cent to 74 per cent.  The percentage of contraceptive users remained fairly stable in developed countries, where contraceptive prevalence is already high.

 

Unmet need for family planning remains high in developing countries, despite the recent accelerated growth in the use of contraception. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, an average of 23 per cent of women of reproductive age who are married or in union are believed to need family planning because they report that they want no more children or want to delay the next pregnancy by two years or more, but are not using contraception. In Northern Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, the unmet need for family planning is lower, at around 16 per cent.  In Europe, that percentage is 6 per cent on average.

 

The data presented on the wall chart refer only to women aged 15-49 who are married or in a consensual union because comparative information is more widely available for that group of women than for single women or for men. In addition, the data reflect only the primary or most effective method used.  That is, when a woman reports that she is using several methods, only the most effective is recorded. This practice may explain why the level of condom use is higher in developed countries than in developing countries (13 per cent vs. 3 per cent of women who are married or in a consensual union, respectively). In developed countries, when condom use is reported to be a couple’s contraceptive method, it is usually the primary method used. In developing countries, apart from being less frequently used, condoms tend to be used in conjunction with other, more effective methods.

 

            Further information may be obtained from the office of Ms. Hania Zlotnik, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, USA; tel. 1-212-963-3179; fax 1-212-963-2147.