Trends in contraceptive use in the United States: 1982-1995

Fam Plann Perspect. Jan-Feb 1998;30(1):4-10, 46.


Context: Trends in contraceptive use have implications for shifts in pregnancy rates and birthrates and can inform clinical practice of changes in needs for contraceptive methods and services.

Methods: Information on current contraceptive use was collected from a representative sample of women of reproductive age in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). This information is compared with similar data from 1982 and 1988 to examine trends in use, both overall and in social and demographic subgroups.

Results: The proportion of U.S. women using a contraceptive method rose from 56% in 1982 to 60% in 1988 and 64% in 1995. As in 1982 and 1988, female sterilization, the pill and the male condom were the most widely used methods in 1995. Between 1988 and 1995, the proportion of users relying on the pill decreased from 31% to 27%, while condom use rose from 15% to 20%. The largest decreases in pill use and the largest increases in condom use occurred among never-married women and among black women younger than 25. Reliance on the IUD dropped sharply among Hispanic women, while use of the diaphragm fell among college-educated white women.

Conclusions: The decline in pill and diaphragm use and the increase in reliance on condoms suggest that concerns about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are changing patterns of method use among unmarried women.

PIP: This article uses data from the 1982, 1988, and 1995 US National Surveys of Family Growth to describe the major contraceptive use trends between 1982 and 1995 as well as the subgroups responsible for important changes. The article focuses on current use of contraception by women of reproductive age, including sterilization and condom use, as defined by use of at least one method during the month of the interview. The proportion of women practicing contraception increased from 56% in 1982 to 60% in 1988 and 64% in 1995, with increases in all age, ethnic, and racial groups. Tables display the characteristics of women at risk of an unwanted pregnancy as well as the percentage distribution and number of contraceptive users 1) by current method; 2) by current method, race, and ethnicity; 3) of Whites and Blacks by current method according to age; 4) by age, marital status, education, income, and intent to have more children by method; 5) of White and Black users by method according to marital status and parity; 6) of White and Black users aged 20-44 by method according to education and income; and 7) the number of women aged 15-44 and percentage currently using specified contraceptive method combinations by age, marital status, education, income, parity, race/ethnicity, and number of male partners in the past year. The major finding was an increase in condom use, especially among young, Black, Hispanic, and unmarried women. This increase accompanied a decrease in use of oral contraceptives and the vaginal diaphragm. The data suggest the trends were affected by concerns about HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and point the way to further research on contraceptive use trends.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception / methods
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception / trends*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States