Key Points

• There is wide regional variation in the timing of marriage among Nigerian women. More than nine in 10 women aged 20–24 in the North East and North West had married by age 20, compared with half to three-fourths of women in the three southern regions.

• Premarital sexual activity is most common among more educated women, who tend to postpone marriage the longest. In the southern regions, where educational levels are highest and the smallest proportion of young women are married, 41–69% of women aged 20–24 had had premarital intercourse< by age 20. This compares
with only 6–14% in the North West and North East, where educational levels are lowest and marriage before 20 is most common.

• Contraceptive use is low in Nigeria, particularly among married women. Only 13% of married women aged 15–49 use any
method, traditional or modern.
Use is much higher among sexually
active unmarried women (47%).

• There is considerable regional variation in contraceptive use, with 66% of sexually active unmarried women using any method in the South West, compared with only 13% in the North East.

• Six in 10 married women aged 15–49 want to space or limit childbearing, and 14% of all births are either mistimed or unwanted. • Thirty-two percent of married women and 54% of sexually active need for family planning.

• Many women either have never heard of any contraceptive method or do not know where to obtain contraceptives. Additionally, four in 10 married women and nearly five in 10 married men do not< approve of contraceptive use. • Having or performing an abortion is illegal in Nigeria except to save a woman’s life. Yet the estimated abortion rate in 1996 was 25 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44, translating to about 610,000 abortions performed in that year.

• Efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancy
and unsafe abortion in
Nigeria require adequate provision
of family planning services, as
well as public education to dispel
rumors and misperceptions about
the health consequences and
effectiveness of modern methods.
Men should be encouraged to support
their partner’s desire to have
fewer children.