This paper examines contraceptive method use at different stages of the reproductive life course. Previous research on contraceptive practice in developed countries typically applies age as a proxy for reproductive history. While age is an essential and useful life course measure for understanding contraceptive use, investigations of contraceptive practice should also consider parity and fertility intentions, as they may be more accurate measures of reproductive life course stage. Analysis is based on data collected in the 2005 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, a nationally representative sample of women of reproductive age (18–44). For women at risk of pregnancy, the most commonly used methods are easily reversed methods such as the oral contraceptive pill (30%) and condom (23%), medium-term methods such as the intrauterine device and implantation (5%) and permanent methods (7% tubal ligation and 9% vasectomy of partner). Logistic regression models are used to investigate the use of four popular contraceptive methods by parity, age and fertility intentions controlling for socio-demographic factors. The main findings indicate that the use of these methods varies substantially by the stage of a woman's reproductive life course: age, parity and fertility intentions are all associated with method use.
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