Developing strategies to address contraceptive needs of adolescents: Exploring patterns of use among sexually active adolescents in 46 low- and middle-income countries

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Objective: We explore the patterns of adolescents' need for contraception in 46 low- and middle-income countries. Methods: Using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys, we estimate the prevalence of never-use, ever-use and current contraceptive use of sexually active adolescent girls ages 15–19. We use weighted fixed-effects meta-analytic techniques to estimate summary measures. Finally, we highlight country profiles of adolescent contraceptive use. Results: More than half (54.4%) of sexually active or girls in unions report never using contraception, while 13.3% report having used contraception but not currently doing so. Nearly a third report currently using a contraceptive method: 24.6% are using a modern short-term method, 2.5% are using a most effective method, and 5.2% are using a traditional method. Conclusions: We find significant heterogeneity across countries as well as within countries based on adolescents needs for spacing, limiting and method preference. With more than half of sexually active adolescents having never used contraception, the potential for unwanted pregnancies is high. Implications: While there is no single strategy to address adolescents' contraceptive needs, country programs may want to consider the heterogeneity of adolescents' risks for unintended pregnancy and tailor programs to align with the profile of adolescents in their settings.