Irish contraceptive use among the world’s highest, says UN report

UNFPA report estimates 6% of Irish women have unmet need for family planning

The UNFPA says almost half of all pregnancies – about 121 million a year – are unintended. Photograph: iStock

Ireland has one of the highest rates of contraceptive use in the world, according to a United Nations report.

The contraceptive prevalence rate among women aged 18-45 years in Ireland is 66 per cent, rising to 70 per cent among women who are married or in a “union”, according to the report.

Finland has the highest contraceptive prevalence rate, at 79 per cent, and Canada, China, Cuba, Norway and the UK also have higher rates than Ireland's.

There is an unmet need for family planning among 6 per cent of Irish women, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, estimates, and 88 per cent of demand is satisfied with modern methods of contraception, according to UNFPA’s State of the World Population report 2022.


The fertility rate for Irish women is given as 1.8, near the European average but below the replacement rate of about 2.1.


The UNFPA says almost half of all pregnancies – about 121 million a year – are unintended. More than 60 per cent of unintended pregnancies, and almost 30 per cent of all pregnancies, end in abortion, it says.

In humanitarian emergencies, such as the war in Ukraine, many women lose access to contraception and/or experience sexual violence.

In Afghanistan alone, an estimated 4.8 million unintended pregnancies will occur by 2025 as a result of health system disruptions and gender inequality, according to the UNFPA.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also increased the number of unintended pregnancies; in the first 12 months of the pandemic, disruption in contraceptive supplies and services lasted an average of 3.6 months, leading to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.

Globally, the agency says, an estimated 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception, while nearly a quarter of all women where data is available are not able to say no to sex.

Contraceptive use is 53 per cent lower among women who have experienced intimate partner violence, the report says.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.