A review of contraceptive practices among married and unmarried women in China from 1982 to 2010

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa); Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health


Objective: To analyse the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) among - and contraceptive methods used by - married and unmarried women in China, from 1982 to 2010.

Method: Data concerning married women were collected from national surveys conducted by the Chinese government. Those pertaining to unmarried women were obtained by searching the China Academic Journal Network Publishing database and PubMed.

Results: CPR among married women in China was 89% in 2010, the highest in the world. Most married women use long-acting reversible contraceptives, particularly intrauterine devices, and sterilisation. CPR among sexually active unmarried women has fluctuated between 17 and 70% since 1988, although the frequency of condom use has increased (Cochran-Armitage trend test, χ(2) = 126.1, p < 0.001). More than 25% of unmarried women rely since at least 1982 on less effective contraceptive methods, including rhythm and withdrawal. This has led to an annual induced abortion rate of approximately 20% among those women.

Conclusion: In sharp contrast to the high CPR among married women, the rate among sexually active unmarried women in China has remained extremely low since 1988. More efforts should be directed at raising contraception awareness among this population to improve their reproductive health and reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care