How Couples Communicate about Contraceptives in West African Nation

Family planning may not be the most romantic topic of discussion between couples, but contraceptive use is heavily influenced by the nature and quality of their communication. A woman’s perception of her husband’s approval of family planning can affect whether she even brings up the topic in conversation.

For family planning programs to effectively encourage open discussion between partners, there needs to be a greater understanding about what constitutes satisfactory communication and what will result in commitment to use a contraceptive method.

To investigate this issue, Lynn Van Lith, MPA, senior technical advisor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, worked with colleagues to conduct in-depth interviews with 45 couples in Burkina Faso. They assessed the role of couple communication and decision-making on the uptake of the long-acting and permanent contraceptive methods.

The team found that women often play a dominant role in initiating the discussion as well as adopting and maintaining a method. The choice to use a long-acting and permanent method appears to be made jointly by both partners, with the husband’s position weighing heavily on that joint decision, according to research presented Wednesday, November 13 at the International Conference on Family Planning.

To effectively encourage the adoption of long-acting and permanent methods as well as other methods of contraception, Van Lith said that family planning programs need to incorporate messages promoting more male involvement in couple discussions and decision-making.—Kim Martin