Abstract

Using data from the 1970 National Fertility Study, the trend in the initiation of contraception prior to the first pregnancy is examined. This trend is of interest because of its relationship to the tempo of familybuilding. Using data from a recent marriage cohort, it is shown that use before the first pregnancy is related to age at marriage, age at termination of first pregnancy and the probability of having a premarital conception. For women first married during the decade of the 1960’s, there was a substantial increase in the proportion using contraception before the first pregnancy. This trend is found among both white Catholics and white non-Catholics, but not among blacks. An examination of the specific method used by women using contraception before the first pregnancy reveals a shift from reliance on the traditional methods of diaphragm, condom and douche by the earlier birth cohorts to the use of the pill by the more recent cohorts. An appendix examines the reliability of various measures of the interval of first use of contraception.

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