Journal Article

Do natural methods count? Underreporting of natural contraception in urban Burkina Faso

Natural methods of contraception were widely used in developed countries until the late 1960s to space and limit childbirth. In France, when the first contraceptive surveys were conducted, researchers noticed that the use of natural methods was underreported, and questions to correct for this bias were subsequently added. The Demographic and Health Surveys do not currently include questions specific to natural methods. We added such questions to the standard DHS question regarding current contraceptive use when we conducted the Health and Demographic Surveillance System of Ouagadougou (2010 Ouaga HDSS) health survey in Burkina Faso among 758 women aged 15-49. Doing so enabled us to find a notable increase in the proportion of women in union who reported practicing contraception: 58 percent, compared with 38 percent in Ouagadougou in the 2010 Burkina Faso DHS. Thirty-two percent of women reported using modern medical methods or condoms in both surveys, but use of natural methods was much greater in the 2010 Ouaga HDSS health survey (26 percent) than in the 2010 Burkina Faso DHS (5 percent). Many women classified as having unmet need for family planning in Ouagadougou by the DHS data are in fact users of natural methods. Additional questions that would measure use of natural methods more completely should be tested in different settings.