Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Original article

Vol. 151 No. 1718 (2021)

Losing your virginity safely? A Swiss national survey

  • Marion Meuwly
  • Diane Auderset
  • Joan-Carles Surís
  • Yara Barrense-Dias
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2021;151:w20509


WHAT IS KNOWN ON THE SUBJECT: Good practice and knowledge in terms of contraception at first sexual intercourse may lead adolescents to a safer sexual life. To date, research studies have mostly focused on women when investigating contraception use or on condom use only when addressing both genders.

WHAT DOES THIS ARTICLE ADD: The present study adds to the current knowledge by offering a more in-depth view of contraception use at first intercourse among youths. This is achieved through a large selection of variables, the fact that we address both males and females and that we have considered a wide range of contraceptive means.


To determine the rate of contraception use at first intercourse by youth in Switzerland and its association with social and personal characteristics.


Data were obtained from a self-administrated national survey on sexual behaviour among young adults (mean age 26 years). Participants (n = 4036) were divided into three groups based on the means of contraception used at first intercourse: condom, with or without contraceptive (86.4%), contraceptive only (8.3%) and non-use (5.3%).


Only 5.3% did not use any contraception. Compared with the condom group, individuals in the non-use group were more likely to report a lower family socioeconomic status, to be foreign born, to have foreign-born parents, to have a non-intact family and to live in a Catholic canton. They were also more likely to have had their first intercourse in the context of a casual relationship, to have been intoxicated at the time and more likely to regret it. Participants in the contraceptive group reported a higher family socioeconomic status, had intact families, did not live in Catholic cantons, were older and in a steady relationship at first intercourse.


Contraception is generally used at first intercourse in Switzerland. Improvements can still be made concerning contraception use in the most vulnerable social strata such as low income families or foreign status.


  1. World Health Organization (WHO). Adolescent development. Available from : [cited 2019 Nov 18].
  2. Apter D. Contraception options: Aspects unique to adolescent and young adult. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2018;48:115–27. doi:.
  3. Guleria S Juul KE Munk C Hansen BT Arnheim-Dahlström L Liaw KL Contraceptive non-use and emergency contraceptive use at first sexual intercourse among nearly 12 000 Scandinavian women. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2017;96(3):286–94. doi:.
  4. Guleria S Thomsen LT Munk C Nygård M Hansen BT Elfström KM Contraceptive use at first intercourse is associated with subsequent sexual behaviors. Contraception. 2019;99(4):217–21. doi:.
  5. Wang MY Temmerman M Zhang WH Fan Y Mu Y Mo SP Contraceptive and reproductive health practices of unmarried women globally, 1999 to 2018: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(49):e23368. doi:.
  6. Palmer MJ Clarke L Ploubidis GB Wellings K. Prevalence and correlates of ‘sexual competence’ at first heterosexual intercourse among young people in Britain. BMJ Sex Reprod Health. 2019;45(2):127–37. doi:.
  7. Do TH Le LC Burgess JA Bui DS. Determinants of condom use at sexual debut among young Vietnamese. Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2014;26(3):403–10. doi:.
  8. Hersh AR Saavedra-Avendaño B Schiavon R Darney BG. Sexuality Education During Adolescence and Use of Modern Contraception at First Sexual Intercourse Among Mexican Women. J Adolesc Health. 2019;65(5):667–73. doi:.
  9. Moreira LR Dumith SC Paludo SDS. Uso de preservativos na última relação sexual entre universitários: quantos usam e quem são? [Condom use in last sexual intercourse among undergraduate students: how many are using them and who are they?] Cien Saude Colet. 2018;23(4):1255–66. doi:.
  10. Lee J Berenson AB Patel PR. Characteristics of Females Who Use Contraception at Coitarche: An Analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2010 Database. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2015;24(12):972–7. doi:.
  11. Narring F Wydler H Michaud PA. First sexual intercourse and contraception: a cross-sectional survey on the sexuality of 16-20-year-olds in Switzerland. Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 2000;130(40):1389–98.
  12. Svare EI Kjaer SK Thomsen BL Bock JE. Determinants for non-use of contraception at first intercourse; a study of 10841 young Danish women from the general population. Contraception. 2002;66(5):345–50. doi:.
  13. Manning WD Longmore MA Giordano PC. The relationship context of contraceptive use at first intercourse. Fam Plann Perspect. 2000;32(3):104–10. doi:.
  14. Wellings K Nanchahal K Macdowall W McManus S Erens B Mercer CH Sexual behaviour in Britain: early heterosexual experience. Lancet. 2001;358(9296):1843–50. doi:.
  15. Paiva V Calazans G Venturi G Dias R Grupo de Estudos em População, Sexualidade e Aids. Idade e uso de preservativo na iniciação sexual de adolescentes brasileiros [Age and condom use at first sexual intercourse of Brazilian adolescents]. Rev Saude Publica. 2008;42(Suppl 1):45–53. Article in Portugese. doi:.
  16. Klavs I Rodrigues LC Wellings K Weiss HA Hayes R. Increased condom use at sexual debut in the general population of Slovenia and association with subsequent condom use. AIDS. 2005;19(11):1215–23. doi:.
  17. Isley MM Edelman A Kaneshiro B Peters D Nichols MD Jensen JT. Sex education and contraceptive use at coital debut in the United States: results from Cycle 6 of the National Survey of Family Growth. Contraception. 2010;82(3):236–42. doi:.
  18. Mauldon J Luker K. The effects of contraceptive education on method use at first intercourse. Fam Plann Perspect. 1996;28(1):19–24. doi:.
  19. Mueller TE Gavin LE Kulkarni A. The association between sex education and youth’s engagement in sexual intercourse, age at first intercourse, and birth control use at first sex. J Adolesc Health. 2008;42(1):89–96. doi:.
  20. Barrense-Dias Y, Akré C, Berchtold A, Leeners B, Morselli D, Surís JC. Sexual health and behavior of young people in Switzerland (Raison de santé 291). Lausanne: Institut universitaire de médecine sociale et préventive; 2018.
  21. Martyn KK Saftner MA Darling-Fisher CS Schell MC. Sexual risk assessment using event history calendars with male and female adolescents. J Pediatr Health Care. 2013;27(6):460–9. doi:.
  22. Morselli D Berchtold A Suris Granell JC Berchtold A. On-line life history calendar and sensitive topics: A pilot study. Comput Human Behav. 2016;58:141–9. doi:.
  23. Hibell B, Guttormsson U, Ahlstrom S, Balakireva O, Bjarnason T, Kokkevi A, et al. The 2007 ESPAD report: substance use among students in 35 European countries. Stockholm: The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN). 2009.
  24. Berg-Kelly K Erdes L. Self-assessment of sexual maturity by mid-adolescents based on a global question. Acta Paediatr. 1997;86(1):10–7. doi:.
  25. Lazarus JV Moghaddassi M Godeau E Ross J Vignes C Ostergren PO A multilevel analysis of condom use among adolescents in the European Union. Public Health. 2009;123(2):138–44. doi:.
  26. Office fédéral de la statistique (OFSP) Confédération Suisse. Population résidante permanente âgée de 15 ans ou plus selon l'appartenance religieuse par canton et ville, 2010-2017. 15.11.19]; Available from:
  27. Barrense-Dias Y Akre C Surís JC Berchtold A Morselli D Jacot-Descombes C Does the Primary Resource of Sex Education Matter? A Swiss National Study. J Sex Res. 2020;57(2):166–76. doi:.
  28. Chernick LS Chun TH Richards R Bromberg JR Ahmad FA McAninch B Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN). Sex Without Contraceptives in a Multicenter Study of Adolescent Emergency Department Patients. Acad Emerg Med. 2020;27(4):283–90. doi:.
  29. Williams RL Fortenberry JD. Dual use of long-acting reversible contraceptives and condoms among adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2013;52(4, Suppl):S29–34. doi:.
  30. Fennell JL. Men Bring Condoms, Women Take Pills. Gend Soc. 2011;25(4):496–521. doi:.
  31. Abel G Fitzgerald L. ‘When you come to it you feel like a dork asking a guy to put a condom on’: is sex education addressing young people’s understandings of risk? Sex Educ. 2006;6(2):105–19. doi:.
  32. de Looze M Madkour AS Huijts T Moreau N Currie C. Country-Level Gender Equality and Adolescents’ Contraceptive Use in Europe, Canada and Israel: Findings from 33 Countries. Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2019;51(1):43–53. doi:.
  33. Pinter B Hakim M Seidman DS Kubba A Kishen M Di Carlo C. Religion and family planning. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2016;21(6):486–95. doi:.
  34. Charro Baena B Meneses C Caperos JM Prieto M Uroz J. The Role of Religion and Religiosity in Alcohol Consumption in Adolescents in Spain. J Relig Health. 2019;58(5):1477–87. doi:.
  35. Jørgensen MJ Maindal HT Christensen KS Olesen F Andersen B. Sexual behaviour among young Danes aged 15-29 years: a cross-sectional study of core indicators. Sex Transm Infect. 2015;91(3):171–7. doi:.
  36. Copen CE Chandra A Febo-Vazquez I. Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Orientation Among Adults Aged 18-44 in the United States: Data From the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth. Natl Health Stat Rep. 2016;(88):1–14.

Most read articles by the same author(s)