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CONTEXT: Although Russian women have adequate knowledge of modern contraceptives, their level of use of these methods has been low, and abortion rates remain relatively high.

METHODS: In 1994–2003, sexually active women aged 18–49 were interviewed about their contraceptive use as part of the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey. Trends in contraceptive use were examined. Multivariate analyses were conducted to identify characteristics associated with reliable contraceptive use (IUD use or consistent oral contraceptive use) in 1994 and 2003.

RESULTS: In each year, about 25% of sexually active women had used no contraceptive method in the past month, and 20% had used traditional methods. Prevalence of barrier method use increased from 9% to 21% between 1994 and 2003, while that of IUD use declined from 34% to 21%. These changes were especially pronounced in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and among younger women. Common reasons for nonuse were irregular sexual relations (cited by 29% of nonusers in 2003), desire for pregnancy (22%), perceived inability to get pregnant (15%), feeling that contraceptives are uncomfortable or unpleasant (15%), health problems (11%) and the availability of abortion (6%). In 1994 and 2003, the odds of reliable contraceptive use were elevated among women with at least a secondary education (odds ratios, 1.5–1.7), and were reduced among smokers (0.6–0.7).

CONCLUSIONS: Modern, effective contraceptive use has not increased among sexually active Russian women. Growing use of barrier contraceptives may reflect HIV awareness. Obstacles to effective contraceptive use, such as attitudes and health service factors, need further clarification.