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Two problems are associated with the analysis of use-effectiveness of contraception. First, couples belonging to a sample of contraceptors typically vary in their monthly chances of contraceptive failure. Second, one does not observe for many, and perhaps a majority of the couples, how long they can remain protected with the contraceptive, because either they are stopping contraception to plan a pregnancy or else observation of them is being interrupted by lost contact, by discontinuation of contraception for other reasons, or by the end of the study. It is argued that because of these two problems--namely, sample heterogeneity and incomplete histories--the Pearl pregnancy rate, which has been traditionally used to measure contraceptive effectiveness, is inadequate. A life table method is described that permits one to combine incomplete histories with complete ones for purposes of estimating the proportions of the sample that might have remained protected for specified periods if all members had remained under observation for these periods. The versatility of the techniques is illustrated in relation to a retrospective survey. A detailed account of procedure is given. Finally, it is shown that only under specialized conditions that are rarely met in practice is it possible to estimate the results of the new technique from knowledge of Pearl pregnancy rates alone.
Demography © 1966 Population Association of America