Factors Influencing Sexual and Reproductive Health Risks and Contraceptive Use Among Young Married Women in Malawi
Kaneka, Benjamin N.
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Young married women contribute a disproportionate share of Malawi ' s high total fertility of 5.7 children per woman. However, there has been dearth of studies that have focused on sexual, reproductive and contraceptive practices of young married women in the country as a distinct group. Using quantitative and qualitative methodologies, the study investigated factors that influence sexual and reproductive health risks and contraceptive practices among young married women in the country. Quantitative data drawn from the 2000, 2004 and 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Surveys were used to analyse the levels and trends in timing of first sex, marriage, childbearing and contraceptive use and method choice among young married women. Individual in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with young married women and key informant interviews with traditional community leaders and health service providers were the methods used to generate qualitative data used for the study. The study asserts that sexual and reproductive risks and contraceptive practices among young married women are a function of a multiplicity of influences most of which are external to young married women's control and agency. Such influences emanate from a range of sources that include partners, family members, friends and acquaintances individually or severally and are buttressed by the social, cultural and economic milieu young married women find themselves in. From the findings, it is concluded that young married women need multipronged and multi sectoral interventions that support the realisation of their sexual, contraceptive and reproductive health needs and rights beyond mere provision of information and services in these prime times of their reproductive years. Their situation is affected by the fact that they are young women who are in the early stages of their marital and reproductive lives. The study proposes a new mode of delivery of sexual and reproductive health and contraceptive interventions targeting married women by treating young married women as a special and underserved group with peculiar challenges and needs. In addition, the interventions should also be directed towards critical secondary audiences that include their partners, family members, community leaders and health service providers in a concerted and multisectoral approach.
- Humanities