Background: Despite the expanded range of contraceptive options and the fact that the first acts of intercourse are well protected, abortion rates among young women in France have increased in the last 15 years. These contraceptive failures could result from the lower effectiveness of the condom compared with the pill, and/or the occurrence of contraceptive gaps when switching from the condom to the pill. Adding to the existing literature, this paper explores the conditions by which women and men discontinue using the condom. Methods: The study sample was comprised of 1552 men and 1849 women under the age of 30, who participated in the National Survey on Sexual Health in France. Respondents answered questions on contraceptive use, duration of condom use, condom discontinuation and the switch to another method of contraception at the time of condom discontinuation in the context of their first and last sexual relationships. Results: Condoms, used by a large majority of respondents during the first acts of intercourse, were rapidly discontinued in favor of other methods, particular the pill, for continuing relationships. However, one in ten respondents (women and men alike) had unprotected intercourse after condom discontinuation, when condom use was discontinued in the first trimester of their relationship. Abortions were more frequent among respondents who reported they did not use a condom at the start of a relationship or among women who did not switch to another form of contraception after discontinuing condom use. Conclusion: While condoms are widely used during the first acts of intercourse, the rising abortion rates among young people suggests frequent contraceptive failures, which partly result from unprotected intercourse following condom discontinuation. These results question the dichotomy between HIV campaigns based on condom use and campaigns to reduce unintended pregnancies, which promote use of other forms of contraception, such as the pill. To reduce the incidence of unprotected intercourse, it would be important to promote the use of condoms at sexual debut, both as a contraceptive and preventive method against STIs, and provide counseling about all available contraceptive options, including the use of emergency contraception as a backup option in case of errors of use of the condom.
- Unintended pregnancies
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health