Contraceptive prevalence increased by nine percentage points from 1993 to 2000 in Bangladesh, but there was almost no decline in the total fertility rate.
Data from the 1999-2000 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey and from the Matlab Demographic Surveillance System area collected between 1978 and 2001 were analyzed to explain the lack of change in fertility and to examine relationships among contraceptive prevalence, the abortion ratio, desired fertility and total fertility.
After a maternal and child health and family planning program was initiated in part of Matlab in 1977, the total fertility rate in the intervention area declined from 4.8 in 1979 to 2.9 in 2000, while fertility in the comparison area dropped from 6.3 to 3.5. Over this period, contraceptive prevalence rose from 30% to 70% and from 16% to 50% in the two areas, respectively; meanwhile, the abortion ratio fell from 4.3 to 3.6 in the intervention area, but rose from around two to 8.2 in the comparison area. Trends in desired fertility in each area were similar, declining from about 4.0 children per woman in 1979 to about 2.5 children in 2000. Among women at each level of parity, fertility generally decreased as the number of sons increased, and fertility was highest for women without sons.
Preference for male children and parental concern over infant and child mortality may partially explain the difference between desired family size and fertility. A reduction in breast-feeding and an increase in use of less-effective contraceptive methods might be responsible for the inconsistency in the relationship between contraceptive use and fertility.