Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 July 2008
Lifetime reproductive histories of a 1984–85 nationally representative sample of 870 women aged 25–59 years provided data to describe the evolution of fertility, contraception, breast-feeding, and natural fecundability in Costa Rica between 1960 and 1984. The contraceptive prevalence rate increased from 23% in 1965 to 58% in 1975 and 66% in 1984. Duration of breast-feeding was stable during the 1960s, decreased in the early 1970s, and increased after about 1976. Fecundability among women who did not practise contraception was lower than expected and declined between 1960 and 1975, probably because of selection effects. Despite a high consistency between estimations from the reproductive histories and other sources of data, some suggestion of omissions of short periods of contraceptive use in the distant past was detected. The survey may have reduced recall errors by using a calendar that summarizes major life events together. The analysis demonstrated the feasibility and usefulness of asking for lifetime reproductive histories in fertility surveys in developing countries.