Objective: To document the use of contraception by a representative sample of Australian women aged 16-49 years and compare it with 2001-2002.
Methods: Women were asked about their use of contraception and method used or reason for non-use during computer-assisted telephone interviews in 2012-2013. Women were sampled by random digit dialling of landline and mobile phones (participation rate 67.2%).
Results: Of a weighted sample of 5654 heterosexually active women interviewed 81% were using a method of contraception including sterilisation; this amounts to 66% of all women aged 16-49. Of those who were not using a method, 42% were pregnant or wanted a baby, 25% said they or their partners were infertile, 5% were currently not having intercourse, 3% were past menopause and 25% were apparently at risk of unintended pregnancy. Of those who used a method, 33% used oral contraceptives, 30% condoms and 19% sterilisation as their primary method. Use of condoms, intrauterine devices, implants and emergency contraception has increased since 2002, and use of sterilisation has fallen. Method used varied by age group, location, occupational group, relationship status and parity. A third of women had ever used emergency contraception, with the highest rate among women in their 20s.
Conclusion: Australian women have access to a wide range of effective contraceptive methods.
Implications: Given the high levels of use, most unintended pregnancies in Australia are likely to be attributable to method failure or inconsistent use.
Keywords: Australia; Contraception; Contraception behaviour; Emergency contraception; National survey.
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