In spite of major gains in contraceptive prevalence over the last few decades, many women in most parts of the developing world who would like to delay or avoid pregnancy do not use any method of contraception. This paper seeks to: a) examine whether experiencing an unintended pregnancy is associated with future use of contraception controlling for a number factors including poverty at the household and community levels; and b) investigate the mechanisms through which experiencing an unintended pregnancy leads to uptake of contraception.
Quantitative and qualitative data from a cross-sectional research project conducted in 2009/10 in two slum settlements and two non-slum settings of Nairobi, Kenya are used. The quantitative component of the project was based on a random sample of 1,259 women aged 15–49 years. Logistic regression models were used to assess the effect of unintended pregnancy on future contraceptive use. The qualitative component of the project successfully interviewed a total of 80 women randomly selected from survey participants who had reported having at least one unintended pregnancy.
Women whose last pregnancy was unintended were more likely to be using a modern method of contraception, compared to their peers whose last pregnancy was intended, especially among the wealthier group as shown in the interaction model. Among poor women, unintended pregnancy was not associated with subsequent use of contraception. The qualitative investigation with women who had an unplanned pregnancy reveals that experiencing an unintended pregnancy seems to have served as a "wake-up call," resulting in greater attention to personal risks, including increased interest in pregnancy prevention. For some women, unintended pregnancy was a consequence of strong opposition by their partners to family planning, while others reported they started using contraceptives following their unintended pregnancy, but discontinued after experiencing side effects.
This study provides quantitative and qualitative evidence that women who have had an unintended pregnancy are "ready for change." Family planning programs may use the contacts with antenatal, delivery and post-delivery care system as an opportunity to identify women whose pregnancy is unplanned, and target them with information and services.