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The contraception of women with intellectual disability (ID) is a major concern for caregivers. However, the prevalence of contraception and the frequency of use of different methods (e.g. sterilization) remain generally unknown. Moreover, indications specific to women with ID are controversial. The present authors conducted a population-based study among 97% of the women with ID aged between 18 and 46 years attending government-funded facilities in Brussels and the nearby province of Walloon Brabant in Belgium. Out of 397 subjects, 40.8% did not use any contraceptive method, 22.2% were sterilized, 18.4% used an oral contraceptive agent, 17.6% used depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate and 1% used an intrauterine device. These figures differ widely from those of the general Belgian population. Binary logistic regression for 'contraceptive utilization' showed the strong influence of institutional factors such as sleeping environment (i.e. institutional or parental), sexual relationship policy and contraception policy. Having or having had a boyfriend is also correlated with a stronger probability of contraceptive use. Other factors have a smaller influence (e.g. a milder level of ID). Very few factors, none of which are medical, are correlated with an increased use of a specific method. The present results are discussed in the light of the general medical application of contraception and the commonly assumed specific indications for women with ID.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Intellectual Disability Research

Publication Date





108 - 119