Contraceptive practices and trends in France

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Citation: Toulemon, L., Leridon, H. Contraceptive practices and trends in France.

Tagged: uw-madison (RSS), wisconsin (RSS), sociology (RSS), demography (RSS), prelim (RSS), qual (RSS), WisconsinDemographyPrelimAugust2009 (RSS), birth control (RSS)


This article looks at trends in contraceptive practices in France between 1978 and 1994. Data is based on a sample of 5,900 households from the 1994 Fertility and Family Survey. Respondents were questioned about their contraceptive use patterns and family formation status. In order to evaluate trends, results were compared to results from two other comparable surveys from 1978 and 1988. Two-thirds of French women used some form of reversible contraceptive method in 1994. Oral contraceptive use has grown steadily in France; 40% of women aged 20-44 reported using the pill alone or combined with another method in 1994, compared with 34% in 1988, and 28% in 1978. Those ages 20-24 were the most likely to use the pill, with 59% reporting use of this method in the past month and 83% reported having ever used the pill. About 58% of these women reported also using the condom, while 32% reported using withdrawal and 12% reported using periodic abstinence. Those aged 45-49 were the least likely to use the pill with 14% reporting use of this method. Condom use has also risen during this period; 8% of women were using condoms alone or combined with another method in 1994, up from 5% in 1988 and 6% in 1978. AIDS prevention campaigns were launched in 1988. Most of the increase in condom use has occurred among younger women. In 1994, 53% of women ages 25-29 and 58% of women aged 20-24 had ever used condoms, increasing from 38% and 23% respectively in 1988. During this same period, the percent of women older than 30 who had ever used condoms remained stable at around 42%. Also in 1994, 83% of men ages 20-24 had ever used condoms, compared with 57% of those between 30 and 39. Condom use was more likely to be used during the early stages of new relationships. Condom use differed by education, profession, and place of residence for women (more educated, white collar and urban). Condom use differed by education for men as well. IUD use has declined from 19% in 1988 to 16% in 1994. This method is most commonly used by women aged 35-44; 26% of these women reported using this method. This is partly because the age range of possible users has narrowed. Medical standards in France do not allow doctors to prescribe IUDs to childless women, because of the risks of infection and subsequent sterility. Because of delayed childbearing, fewer women are eligible to receive IUDs. Both male and female sterilizations remain rare. This is most likely because surgical sterilizations, including voluntary tubal ligations and vasectomies, for contraceptive purposes are considered to be a form of mutilation in France. The typical contraceptive sequence for French women begins with 10 years of pill use, followed by use of IUD. This sequence was reported by half of all women in the 1988 survey. Socioeconomic differentials in use of various methods had disappeared by the 1994 survey.