Academic journal article International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Belief in Family Planning Myths at the Individual and Community Levels and Modern Contraceptive Use in Urban Africa

Academic journal article International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Belief in Family Planning Myths at the Individual and Community Levels and Modern Contraceptive Use in Urban Africa

Article excerpt

Unmet need for family planning--defined as the proportion of women in union who are sexually active and fecund, and want to delay childbearing for at least two years or cease childbearing altogether, but are not using any method of contraception (1,2)--is high throughout SubSaharan Africa. (3) Many women and couples with unmet need for either spacing or limiting births do not practice contraception because they lack adequate knowledge of the social, economic and health benefits of family planning, do not know which methods are available or appropriate for them, or do not know where to obtain a method. (4) Others are discouraged from using a method because they believe that their partner, family, community or religion is opposed to contraception.

Another important barrier to contraceptive use is myths and misconceptions about modern methods, such as exaggerated or erroneous reports about side effects, misconceptions about short- or long-term health problems and negative stereotypes about persons who practice family planning. (5,6) For example, in both developed and developing countries, many women incorrectly perceive use of oral contraceptives to be more dangerous than pregnancy. (7) In a study of eight developing countries, 50-70% of women thought that using the pill posed considerable health risks. (8) According to a study in Mali, many women feared that the pill and the injectable could cause permanent infertility. (9) A qualitative study in Kenya among sexually active women aged 15-25 demonstrated that many women had misconceptions about the side effects of modern contraceptives (e.g., that they cause infertility or can harm a woman's uterus), but few had experienced or knew someone who had experienced an actual side effect (e.g., weight gain). (10) In another qualitative study in Kenya among reproductive-age women, one respondent reported that the pill "can accumulate into a life-threatening mass in the stomach, can cause blood to flow out of the nose and mouth, and can cause delivery of children with two heads and no skin." (11) Myths and misconceptions about methods can spread through informal communication via social networks and lead to continued negative perceptions. (12,13) The prevalence of such myths and misconceptions has been demonstrated in several national-level studies (3,14,15) and in rural areas. (16) Data from the Measurement, Learning & Evaluation (MLE) project from Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal demonstrate high levels of misinformation about family planning in urban areas. (17-19) In MLE baseline surveys conducted between 2010 and 2011, at least half of the women interviewed in six cities in Senegal believed that contraceptive users will have health problems; (19) similar results were found among men. Across six Nigerian cities, the proportion of women who believed that myth ranged from 33% in Abuja to 57% in Ibadan; (18) the proportion among men was 25-48%. And in Kenya, 65-82% of women and men in the five study cities thought that contraception is dangerous to one's health. (17) At midterm MLE evaluations two years after baseline, these myths persisted among women in the three countries, although there was a slight decline. (20-22)

Inadequate and incorrect knowledge of modern contraceptives has been associated with low method uptake and use; (23) however, even in settings where knowledge of family planning is high, myths and misconceptions are associated with low demand for and use of contraceptives. (3,23) A study of 2006-2013 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data assessed reasons for contraceptive nonuse and found that, in 26 of the 51 countries studied, 20-50% of women who were married or in a union and at risk of unintended pregnancy reported fear of side effects and fear of health problems as their principal reasons for not practicing family planning. (3) Furthermore, among women with unmet need in Sub-Saharan African countries, 28% reported side effects and health problems as their main reasons for nonuse. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.