Research Article| Volume 34, ISSUE 4, P477-483, August 2021

Sexual Behavior and Contraceptive Use Among Cisgender and Gender Minority College Students Who Were Assigned Female at Birth

  • Colleen A. Reynolds
    Address correspondence to: Colleen Reynolds, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building 9th Floor - student mail, Boston, MA 02115. Phone: (425) 223-0589.
    Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

    Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Brittany M. Charlton
    Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

    Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

    Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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Published:April 07, 2021DOI:


      Study Objective

      Our objective was to describe sexual behavior and contraceptive use among assigned female cisgender and gender minority college students (ie, those whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth).


      Cross-sectional surveys administered as part of the fall 2015 through spring 2018 administrations of the National College Health Assessment.


      Colleges across the United States.


      A total of 185,289 cisgender and gender minority assigned females aged 18-25 years.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Recent vaginal intercourse; number and gender of sexual partners; use of contraception; use of protective barriers during vaginal intercourse.


      Both gender minority and cisgender students often reported having male sexual partners, but gender minority students were more likely to report having partners of another gender identity (eg, women, trans women). Gender minorities were less likely than cisgender students to report having vaginal intercourse (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 0.86; 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 0.80, 0.93). Gender minorities were less likely than cisgender students to report using any contraceptive methods (AOR: 0.86; 95% CI: 0.73, 1.03), and were less likely to consistently use barrier methods (AOR: 0.72; 95% CI: 0.64, 0.81) or emergency contraception (AOR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.48, 0.65). However, gender minorities were more likely to use Tier 1 and Tier 3 contraceptive methods than cisgender women.


      Providers must be trained to meet the contraceptive counseling needs of cisgender and gender minority patients. Providers should explicitly ask all patients about the sex/gender of the patients’ sexual partners and the sexual behaviors in which they engage, to assess sexual risk and healthcare needs.

      Key Words

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