The purpose of this paper is to review the patterns of contraceptive use in Australia, using data from a nationally representative sample of 5872 women aged 18 to 49. This survey was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2001 as part of the National Health Survey. Results of the analysis indicate that the oral contraceptive pill and condom were the two most frequently used methods. More than 76% of the respondents reported having ever used the pill. Over 23% of women were currently using condoms; of these 80% of the condom users used them for contraception – this included 36% who used condoms for both protection against infection and for contraception – and the remainder used them only for protection. Withdrawal was the third most popular non-surgical method up to age 40. Few women used IUDs, injections or diaphragms. Just over 3% of the respondents were using natural methods with the highest rate reported among those in their 30s. The ‘morning-after pill’ was reported mostly by women aged 18–24; however, there was no evidence to suggest that it was being used as a primary method of birth control. Contraceptive use declined in older women who turned to sterilization for themselves and/or their partners. Use of the contraceptive pill was somewhat higher among better-educated women, but lower among less-educated women and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
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