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Chinese coils to Colombian chips: contraception around the world

reading time: 5 minutes reading time

Our world is an exciting mix of countries and cultures, sights and sounds, people and places. But there is one thing that is constant. Sex. To fully appreciate this global language, I decided to have a look at how contraception is used and viewed around the world.

The UN, of all people, have looked into this exact subject. They asked thousands of women from all over the world what contraception they use. The results are really interesting, so I’ll give you the highlights (their report is 70 pages long! ain’t nobody got time for that!).

Although sex is global, unfortunately, contraception is not. In the more developed countries, such as North America, Europe, and Asia, ~70% of women use contraception, compared to 33% in less developed places, like Africa.

Condoms and the pill are predictably popular across Europe and North America; however, sterilisation was very highly ranked. In Canada, male sterilisation is the most popular form of contraception. While over the border in the USA, it’s female sterilisation. Across the other side of the world, in China, the IUD is the people’s choice. Japan and South Korea are more keen on condoms, and southern Asian countries join the USA in favouring female sterilisation.

In less-developed places, due to religious and cultural stigma, most women prefer injectable contraceptive treatments, as they are easier to hide. The ‘traditional’ (unreliable) methods, such as rhythm and withdrawal, are also among the most popular.

Lack of education is a huge problem in these regions. All sorts of elaborate myths surround contraception in these areas. Some personal favourites are that the implant is the mark of the devil (it isn’t; that would be a strange choice for the lord of darkness); that the IUD can travel through your body and damage your brain (it can’t); or that if you have the injection, your next child with be born with a massive head (it won’t). The result is that some women try their own… experimental… methods. A 22-year-old woman in Colombia was rushed to hospital in 2014 with stomach pains, only for the doctors to discover a potato sprouting in her vagina! She had put it there two weeks before to avoid becoming pregnant.

Thousands of women around the world are resorting to untested, ineffective and unsafe contraception, as they want to be able to enjoy sex (don’t we all), but don’t feel like they can discuss the various options without being shamed.

The ability to engage in safe sex, without the risk of pregnancy, is beginning to be viewed as a basic human right (finally). Every woman should be able to get the contraception that works for them. Access and education is increasing all the time, so hopefully we can all have lots of lovely, safe sex, leaving the potatoes on the dinner table.


If you want more information about the use of contraception around the world, the whole (70 page!) UN report can be found here: