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Background. Globally, family planning services are being strengthened and the range of contraceptive choices expanded. Data on contraceptive coverage and service gaps could help to shape these initiatives.
Objective. To assess contraception coverage in South Africa (SA) and identify underserved populations and aspects of programming that require strengthening.
Methods. Data from a 2012 SA household survey assessed contraception coverage among 6 296 women aged 15 - 49 years and identified underserved populations.
Results. Two-thirds had an unintended pregnancy in the past 5 years, a quarter of which were contraceptive failures. Most knew of injectable (92.0%) and oral contraception (89.9%), but fewer of intrauterine devices (56.1%) and emergency contraception (47.3%). Contraceptive prevalence was 49.1%, and 41.8% women used modern non-barrier methods. About half had ever used injectable contraception. Contraception was lower in black Africans and younger women, who used a limited range of methods.
Conclusion. Contraception coverage is higher than many previous estimates. Rates of unintended pregnancy, contraceptive failure and knowledge gaps, however, demonstrate high levels of unmet need, especially among black Africans and young women.