Context: To predict the need for contraceptive services, family planning program managers often rely on levels of unmet need derived from measures of childbearing intentions. However, women's intention to use a method has not received as much attention as a measure of contraceptive demand.
Methods: A survey was conducted in 1999 in rural Madhya Pradesh, India, among a subsample of women who had participated in the 1992-1993 National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The women's childbearing and contraceptive behaviors were compared with the intentions they had stated in the NFHS, and logistic regression was performed to analyze the association between socioeconomic and demographic variables and inconsistent behavior.
Results: Among women who were fecund and married in 1992-1993, 29% of those who intended to have children and 61% of those who intended not to have children failed to adhere to their intentions by 1999. Furthermore, 51% of women who were not practicing contraception at the time of the NFHS but planned to do so acted against their intention by 1999, as did 29% of those who planned not to use a method. NFHS respondents who intended both not to have children and to use a method were more likely than others to have used a method by 1999 (63% vs. 25-41%). Age and history of child death were key factors associated with inconsistency between women's intentions and behavior.
Conclusions: In India, use of both contraceptive and childbearing intentions predicts contraceptive demand better than use of either indicator alone, and may thus help program planners estimate future demand for contraceptive services.