Dr Samantha Hollingworth: The contraceptive behaviour of young women in Australia.
Aim: To determine the socio-demographic factors and health related behaviours associated with two aspects of contraceptive behaviour: contraceptive use and contraceptive type used among young women in Australia.
Methods: The study sample comprised 14,779 women aged 18 to 23 years who participated in the 1996 baseline survey of the The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health project. Of these, 9.683 women completed the second survey in 2000 when they were aged 22 to 27 years. Measures of contraceptive use and contraceptive type were derived from a number of questions on contraception in both surveys. Associations between contraceptive bahaviour and socio-demographic factors and health-related behaviours were examined by multinomial logistic regression.
Results: 72% of young women reported using contraception in 1996 and 77% in 2000. The oral contraceptive pill was the preferred method with 70% in 1996 and 73% in 2000 of young women being users, including almost one fifth of these women who used the pill in combination with other methods, including the condom. Between one in four (1996) and one in five (2000) women used condoms with or without other methods (but not the pill). Women who used methods other than the pill or condoms accounted for only about 5% of the sample.
Compared with women who only used the pill, women who used the pill in combination with condoms and other methods (not specified) were more likely to be: never married; older; drinkers; smokers; and to have had a termination or miscarriage. Women who used condoms in combination with other methods (but not the pill) were more likely than women who only used the pill for contraception to be: never married; younger; born in non-English speaking countries; described their work status as 'home duties'; drinkers; smokers; past users of illicit drugs; obese; and to have had a termination or miscarriage. Women who used other methods for contraception were more likely to be: older; living with children; born in non-English speaking countries; un an unskilled occupation; non-drinkers; smokers; and to have had a termination or miscarriage compared to women who used the pill alone.
Women born in non-English speaking countries were more likely to report not needing contraception or to be pregnant than women who used contraception. Women who were pregnant or trying to become pregnant were more likely to be married or in de facto relationships than women who used contraception. At the time of the second survey one in five women had given birth to at least one child and one in ten women had had a termination.
Conclusion: Most young Australian women use contraception. The pill is the preferred method with considerable use of dual methods (ie pill and other methods). Despite the widespread use of contraception, about 10% of women have experienced a termination which indicated a large number of unplanned pregnancies. Strategies to improve contraceptive protection could include: more choice of effective methods; education about and provision of emergency contraception; and improved compliance with currently used methods.