Similarities and differences in contraceptive use reported by women and men in the National Survey of Family Growth

Contraception. 2017 Apr;95(4):419-423. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2016.10.008. Epub 2016 Nov 4.


Objective: To compare use of contraceptive methods at last heterosexual intercourse among 15-44year-old women and men at risk of unintended pregnancy in the United States.

Study design: We employed data from the National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2013. We considered women and men to be at risk of unintended pregnancy if they had intercourse in the last month, regardless of contraceptive use, and if they or their partner had the ability to get pregnant and was not trying to become pregnant. We categorized multiple method use according to the most effective method reported. To explore the contributions of age and relationship status to differences in reporting between women and men, we conducted sensitivity analyses, limiting age to 25-44years and union status to married and cohabiting.

Results: Distributions of methods used at last intercourse differed for women and men. A positive difference reflects higher reporting among women, while a negative difference reflects higher reporting among men. Percentage-point differences were largest for reported use of no method (-7.6) and female sterilization (+7.4), each p<.001. These differences persisted even when the sample was restricted by age and relationship status.

Conclusion: Estimates of men's contraceptive use may be subject to underreporting of their partners' method use, particularly when their female partner is sterilized. Neither older age nor married and cohabiting relationship status accounted for the observed differences. Further research is needed to explore the factors underlying reporting differences between women and men with respect to female sterilization and use of no method. IMPLICATIONS (50): Characterizing the determinants of contraceptive use among men and the relationship of men's pregnancy intentions, feelings and desires to contraceptive use are important future research goals. To ensure valid results, researchers must be aware of the potential for underreporting of method use among men, particularly with respect to female sterilization.

Keywords: Contraceptive use; Men; National Survey of Family Growth; Unintended pregnancy; Women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned
  • Risk
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sterilization, Reproductive / statistics & numerical data
  • United States