Objectives: To evaluate the factors that may affect the selection of a reversible or an irreversible contraceptive method. Methods: In an urban area of a developing country, demographic characteristics, educational and income levels, and previously used contraceptive methods were retrospectively reviewed for 3 years from the files of women who had chosen reversible or irreversible contraceptive methods. Student's t test and the χ2 test were used to analyze the data obtained from the two groups of women. Results: Out of a total of 8078 women, 595 (7.4%) selected surgical sterilization, while 7483 (92.6%) preferred reversible methods such as intrauterine devices (38.1%), combined oral contraceptives (13.9%), condoms (40%) and Norplant® (0.6%). Compared to those who preferred reversible methods, the women with surgical sterilization had a higher mean age (33.9 ± 4.2 years versus 29.6 ± 3.9 years), mean gravidity (3.8 ± 0.9 versus 2.3 ± 1.2) and mean number of living children (2.6 ± 0.8 versus 2.1 ± 1.1) (p < 0.01). These women had also higher rates of high-school education (37.3% versus 30.1%) and previous modern contraceptive use (78.1% versus 71.2%) (p < 0.01). None of the women with surgical sterilization, but 1770 (33.0%) of those who chose reversible methods, had fewer than two living children. Conclusions: These data suggest that irreversible contraceptive methods tend to be chosen by older women with higher educational levels, who have decided that their family is complete and who have at least two children.