Unmet Need and Sex: Investigating the Role of Coital Frequency in Fertility Control

Stud Fam Plann. 2017 Mar;48(1):39-53. doi: 10.1111/sifp.12012. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


We estimate the relationship between unmet need for contraception and coital frequency using data from the most recent Standard Demographic and Health Surveys conducted from 2005 to 2015. Individual-level analyses include 55 countries (n=245,732 women). The dependent variable is women's report of any sex in the last four weeks; the independent variable is current unmet need. Bivariate ecological results using country averages indicate that prevalence of unmet need is significantly negatively correlated with the proportion reporting recent sexual activity. Multivariate regression of individual-level data show that the overall odds ratio of having had sex in the last four weeks is 3.23 and 2.97 for women with met contraceptive need for spacing and limiting fertility, respectively, compared with women with unmet contraceptive need. These results suggest that current estimates of unmet need exaggerate the risk of unintended pregnancy because coital frequency is not uniform with respect to unmet need. Findings also suggest that, despite being categorized as having unmet need, many women may still be taking measures to control their fertility through regulating the tempo of marital coitus, thus reducing their risk of unintended pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coitus
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult