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Fam Plann Perspect. 1998 May-Jun;30(3):114-20.

Contraceptive practices and trends in France.

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  • 1Division of Demographic Surveys and Studies, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, Paris.



Contraceptive use has been legal in France for the past 30 years, and patterns of use changed substantially from the 1960s to the 1980s. Given the rapidity with which use patterns change and the possible impact of rising concern about infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, it is important to determine trends of contraceptive practice into the 1990s.


A total of 5,900 French households were selected in 1994 for inclusion in the Fertility and Family Survey. Respondents were questioned about their contraceptive use patterns and family formation status. The results were compared with those of comparable surveys conducted in 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: About 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. Condom use has also been on the rise: Nearly 8% of women were using condoms alone or combined with another method in 1994, up from 5% in 1988 and 6% in 1978. IUD use has declined from 19% in 1988 to 16% in 1994, and both male and female sterilizations remain rare.


Contraceptive behavior in France appears unique among developed countries, with fairly high levels of oral contraceptive use--even among older women--relatively high levels of IUD use and little reliance on either male or female sterilization. As with other countries, however, condom use has climbed in recent years, and is especially common at first intercourse.


This study describes current contraceptive practices in France over the past 30 years, by method, among single men and women, for dual method use, for pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention, and at 1st intercourse. Data were obtained from the 1994 Fertility and Family Survey and previous fertility surveys. In 1994, 69% of women aged 20-49 years used contraceptives. Most women relied on the pill (about 36%), followed by the IUD (16%). 7% of women were sterilized. About 5% used condoms, and 6% used abstinence or withdrawal. 31% reported not using contraceptives, of whom 3% were sterile. 4% were infertile. 4% were pregnant. 4% desired pregnancy, and 11% had no ongoing sexual relationship. 5% were determined to be at risk for unintended pregnancy. About 83% of women reported ever use of the pill, and 58% had ever used condoms. Typical patterns of use during the 1980s include 10 years of pill use followed by IUD use. Contraceptive behavior only differed among single men and women not in a union. Some men and women reported multiple method use, especially pills and condoms. During 1988-94, pill use increased, IUD use decreased, and condom use increased. Condom use was higher among singles, among the well educated, and in large cities. During 1978-94, natural method use and sterilization declined. Women tended to identify condom use with pregnancy prevention. Men tended to include STD/AIDS prevention. Contraceptive use at 1st intercourse increased over time. Even though contraceptive use increased, the number of induced abortions remained constant, suggesting lower use-effectiveness.

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