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Constructing Natural Fertility: The Use of Western Contraceptive Technologies in Rural Gambia

Caroline H. Bledsoe, Allan G. Hill, Umberto D'Alessandro and Patricia Langerock
Population and Development Review
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), pp. 81-113
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2137631
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137631
Page Count: 33
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Constructing Natural Fertility: The Use of Western Contraceptive Technologies in Rural Gambia
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Abstract

Based on a 1992 survey, this study examines the use of Western and traditional contraceptives in rural Gambia in what appears to be a classic natural fertility population of women with regular birth intervals, strong desires for children, and exceedingly low use rates of Western contraception. The authors find that while women are not trying to reduce fertility, they are seeking to maintain regular birth intervals of around two and a half years through the strategic use of high-technology Western contraceptives. As a result, Western contraception is much more important in shaping patterns of fertility than cross-sectional data would suggest because most contraception occurs for spacing purposes, hence practiced for very short slices of time in the birth interval. Questioning some of the key tenets of the natural fertility paradigm, the study shows that women's birth spacing actions are highly intentional and that the kinds of contraceptive strategies they employ vary considerably by parity.

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