Former Policy Advisor
When decisionmakers better understand the data showing why women stop using contraception despite a preference to avoid pregnancy, they can promote policies and programs that enable continued use of and increased satisfaction with family planning services.
August 9, 2021
Former Policy Advisor
former intern, PACE Project
When women and couples have access to voluntary family planning and can choose whether, when, and how often to have children, multigenerational benefits accrue across the health, education, and economic sectors. Despite these benefits, 218 million women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) who want to delay or avoid pregnancy do not use modern contraceptive methods.
Contraceptive use dynamics, including how often women switch or stop using family planning methods, contribute to contraceptive prevalence rates, or the percentage of women currently using a particular method. Contraceptive use dynamics also play a role in determining reproductive outcomes like unintended pregnancy. However, data on contraceptive use dynamics can be difficult to analyze and interpret. Data are typically collected by asking women to recall their monthly contraceptive use over a period of several years, via retrospective calendars; the calendar data are then analyzed using advanced statistical methods. This complex process may help explain why data on contraceptive use dynamics are not used more often in policy and program decision-making. When decisionmakers better understand the data showing why women stop using contraception despite a preference to avoid pregnancy, they can promote policies and programs that enable continued use of and increased satisfaction with family planning services.
PACE’s Choices and Challenges tool provides an accessible, user-friendly resource on contraceptive use dynamics. Leveraging data on 13 LMICs from the Demographic and Health Survey Contraceptive Calendar, the tool features interactive visualizations that highlight key patterns of contraceptive discontinuation and method switching in these countries, as well as the reasons women stop using contraception.
Choices and Challenges now offers the latest data from Bangladesh, Mali, and Zambia. These countries represent diverse geographic, cultural, and programmatic contexts and demonstrate a wide range in the share of women using contraception: 17% in Mali, 50% in Zambia, and 62% in Bangladesh. Yet in each of these countries, at least one-third of surveyed women reported recently discontinuing contraceptive use while still intending to delay or avoid pregnancy, according to an analysis of the new data.
Here are some key takeaways from each country:
In each country, contraceptive continuation for those wanting to prevent unintended pregnancy could be increased through investments in better counseling strategies and expanded method options. Tailoring policy and program recommendations to the specific reasons women stop using contraceptive methods will help ensure family planning programs better meet women’s needs.
Interested in learning more how you and your team can use the Choices and Challenges tool? Email thepaceproject [at] prb.org.