New UN data shows majority of world's couples use contraception

New UN data shows majority of world's couples use contraception

About two thirds of all couples around the world - or some 650 million people - use some form of contraception, according to new statistics released by the United Nations.

About two thirds of all couples around the world - or some 650 million people - use some form of contraception, according to new statistics released by the United Nations.

Worldwide, 62 per cent of the more than 1 billion married or 'in-union' women of reproductive age are using contraception, but there are great variations among regions. In Africa, only 25 per cent of married women use contraception, while in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean that figure is between 66 and 69 per cent. These statistics are featured on a new wall chart entitled "World Contraceptive Use 2001," issued by the UN Population Division as part of its ongoing monitoring of world use of family planning.

"These data continue to show good news in terms of couples being able to choose the number and spacing of their children," Joseph Chamie, the Director of the Population Division, told the UN News Service. "We've seen dramatic increases and our best projections for the future indicate that these trends will continue."

"This news is particularly important for women, as they are responsible for childbirth," he noted. "It also means we have to continue building upon this progress." The welcome trend, while certainly a product of diverse factors including education and urbanization, could also be attributed to efforts by the UN, other international organizations and national governments, he said.

The wall chart presents the most recent data available on current contraceptive practices for 153 countries and areas. Among the major findings, the chart shows that in the developed world 70 per cent of married or in-union women - numbering some 170 million - are using contraception. In comparison, 60 per cent of the 880 million married or in-union women in the less developed regions are using contraception.

Nine out of 10 contraceptive users worldwide rely on modern methods, according to the chart. The most commonly used modern methods are female sterilization, at 20 per cent, followed by IUDs at 15 per cent, and oral pills at 8 per cent.

Traditional methods - such as "rhythm," or periodic abstinence, and withdrawal - are used by 11 per cent of married couples in developed countries, compared with just 5 per cent in the developing countries. Asked about this gap, Mr. Chamie attributed it to the "leapfrog" factor, noting that "in many countries the latest arrivals to the contraceptive scene are picking up the most recent modern methods," while those who have already established their contraceptive practices are less open to new technologies.