Chief, Fertility and Family Planning Section, Population Division, DESA
Two UN Plaza, Room DC2-1988, New York, NY 10017
Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Postal Address:605 Third Avenue, New York NY 10158 USA
Telephone: +1 212 297 5281
Fax: +1 212 297 4915
Contraceptive prevalence is the percentage of women married or in-union aged 15 to 49 who are currently using, or whose sexual partner is using, at least one method of contraception, regardless of the method used.
For analytical convenience, contraceptive methods are often classified as either modern or traditional. Modern methods of contraception include female and male sterilization, oral hormonal pills, the intra-uterine device (IUD), the male condom, injectables, the implant (including Norplant), vaginal barrier methods, the female condom and emergency contraception. Traditional methods of contraception include the rhythm (periodic abstinence), withdrawal, lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) and folk methods.
For further reference see:
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015).World Contraceptive Use 2015 (POP/DB/CP/Rev2015) (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/dataset/contraception/wcu2015.shtml)
World Health Organization (2006). Reproductive Health Indicators: Guidelines for their Generation, Interpretation and Analysis for Global Monitoring. Geneva: World Health Organization (http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/924156315X_eng.pdf)
MEASURE DHS (2006). Guide to DHS Statistics, Demographic and Health Surveys Methodology under “Current Use of Contraceptive Methods” (http://dhsprogram.com/publications/publication-dhsg1-dhs-questionnaires-and-manuals.cfm).)
Contraceptive prevalence is generally estimated from nationally representative sample survey data. Differences in the survey design and implementation, as well as differences in the way survey questionnaires are formulated and administered can affect the comparability of the data. The most common differences relate to the range of contraceptive methods included and the characteristics (age, sex, marital or union status) of the persons for whom contraceptive prevalence is estimated (base population). The time frame used to assess contraceptive prevalence can also vary. In most surveys there is no definition of what is meant by “currently using” a method of contraception.
When data on contraceptive use among married or in-union women aged 15 to 49 are not available, information on contraceptive prevalence for the next most comparable group of persons is reported. Illustrations of base populations that are sometimes presented are: married or in-union women aged 15-44, sexually active women (irrespective of marital status), ever-married women, or men and women who are married or in a union. When information on current use is not available, data on use of contraceptive methods at last sexual intercourse or during the previous year are utilized. Footnotes are employed to indicate any differences between the data presented and the standard definition of contraceptive prevalence.
In some surveys, the lack of probing questions, asked to ensure that the respondent understands the meaning of the different contraceptive methods, can result in an underestimation of contraceptive prevalence, in particular for traditional methods. Sampling variability can also be an issue, especially when contraceptive prevalence is measured for a specific subgroup (according to method, age-group, level of educational attainment, place of residence, etc.) or when analyzing trends over time.
The indicator “unmet need for family planning” provides complementary information to contraceptive prevalence.
In principle, there is no discrepancy between global and national figures as national data are not modified except in the case of known errata in the reported figures.
In some cases, countries use estimates of contraceptive prevalence for national monitoring based on administrative sources instead of representative sample surveys. Those figures are not used for global monitoring since they are known to be of difficult comparability.
Data are produced by the United Nations Population Division using data from nationally representative surveys including the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), the Fertility and Family Surveys (FFS), the CDC-assisted Reproductive Health Surveys (RHS), the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and national family planning, health, household, or socio-economic surveys. Survey data from sources other than the National Statistical system are included when other data are not available.
The data are taken from published survey reports or, in exceptional cases, other published analytic reports. If clarification is needed, contact is made with the survey sponsors or authoring organization, which occasionally may supply corrected or adjusted estimates in response.
In general, all nationally representative surveys with comparable questions on current use of contraception are included.
For information on the source of each data point, see United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). 2015 Update for the MDG Database: Contraceptive Prevalence (POP/DB/CP/A/MDG2015) (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/dataset/fertility/data/2015_Update_MDG(5.3)_CP.xlsx)
There is no attempt to provide estimates when country data are not available, except for the estimation of regional and global averages.
Data are available for 183 countries and areas, and for 747 data points. For 156 countries and areas there are at least two available data points.
Since the questions correspond to current use of contraceptives, contraceptive prevalence is measured at the time of interview. There is a lag, generally between one and four years, between the date of interview and the diffusion of the survey report. In cases where the interviews are held in two different years, the latest year is given as the reference year. On average, the surveys are undertaken every three to five years.
The dataset is updated annually by the United Nations Population Division.
Regional and global estimates are based on a Bayesian hierarchical model of contraceptive prevalence. Country-level, model-based estimates are only used for computing the regional and global averages and are not used for global monitoring of trends at the country level. Country-specific estimates are generated by using a logistic growth curve to represent the systematic trend in contraceptive prevalence; a hierarchical model based on the observations in the country of interest as well as on the sub-regional, regional and global experiences to estimate country-specific parameters of the pace, timing and asymptote of contraceptive prevalence; and non-parametric changes over time to capture fluctuations around the expected trend. The fewer the number of observations for the country of interest, the more its estimates are driven by the experience of other countries, whereas for countries with many observations the results are determined to a greater extent by those observations.
Regional and global estimates are weighted averages of the model-based country estimates, using the number of married or in-union women aged 15-49 for the reference year in each country. Regional averages are provided only if recent data are available for at least 50 per cent of the women of reproductive age who are married or in union in the region.
Additional details of the methodology are available in Alkema and others (2013). National, regional, and global rates and trends in contraceptive prevalence and unmet need for family planning between 1990 and 2015: A systematic and comprehensive analysis. The Lancet, Volume 381, Issue 9878, pp. 1642-1652.
The dataset is updated annually and results are published in the United Nations Population Division’s World Contraceptive Use.