Uganda, a nation with a youthful population, is currently undergoing a critical phase in its demographic transition. As adolescents journey from childhood to adulthood, they face a multitude of challenges, particularly those related to sexual and reproductive health. Among these challenges, the use of contraceptives among adolescents emerges as a complex and crucial issue.
In this blog story, I will explore the various factors that influence contraceptive use among adolescents in Uganda. To illustrate these factors, let me dive into the experiences of young individuals who grapple with the complexities of accessing and utilizing contraceptives.
Imagine yourself in a remote village in Uganda, where healthcare facilities are scarce and often situated far from reach, and where information about contraceptives is limited. For many adolescents living in such rural areas, accessing contraceptives becomes a formidable challenge. The mere act of reaching a health center or family planning clinic can entail a long and arduous journey, discouraging them from seeking the essential care they need.
During a recent visit to a remote village in Mukono District, located in Central Uganda, I had the opportunity to meet a 17-year-old girl whose identity we will protect by referring to her as Sarah (not her real name). Sarah’s story serves as a poignant example. She shared her experiences with me, saying, “I wanted to use contraceptives, but the nearest clinic is hours away. I couldn’t afford the transportation costs, so I gave up on the idea.”
In addition to personal anecdotes like Sarah’s, it’s essential to consider the broader statistical landscape. Results from an annual survey, conducted by researchers from Makerere University since 2020, aimed at monitoring crucial family planning indicators. Surprisingly, the findings reveal that overall rates of contraceptive use among both married and single women have seen little change. The researchers noted a mere 1.3% average annual increase, which does not carry statistical significance.
Collaboratively, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the School of Public Health, and the Ministry of Health jointly conducted this survey, seeking to shed light on the state of family planning in the country.
Uganda’s National policies on contraception use among adolescents allow sexually active adolescents to access contraceptives without the consent of the parent/guardian. To understand what drives contraceptive use among adolescents, data on the association between demographic characteristics and the use of modern contraceptives among adolescents is crucial.
Additionally, the Stigma associated with seeking contraception is another significant factor that inhibits adolescents in Uganda from using contraceptives.
The Fear of judgment from healthcare providers, peers, family, and the community can deter adolescents from seeking the reproductive health services they need. This stigma must be addressed to create a more supportive environment for adolescents.
Furthermore, the lack of comprehensive sexual education in schools is a contributing factor. To make informed decisions about their sexual health, adolescents need access to accurate information about contraceptives and their use.
Uganda’s diverse cultures bring various perspectives on premarital sex and contraceptive use. Cultural beliefs can create fear and reluctance among adolescents to seek contraceptive services. Overcoming these cultural barriers requires sensitivity and open dialogue.
The 24% adolescent pregnancy rate reported in the UDHS 2022 study throws a somber shadow over the country. It serves as a clear reminder of the pressing need for all-encompassing approaches to address this issue. These tactics need to address a variety of teenage demographics, such as those who are in school or not, young mothers, and others.
The National Health Policy’s incorporation of the National Sexuality Education Framework principles may help close the gap between the legal system and the day-to-day experiences of teenagers.
Increasing the capacity of healthcare professionals would also be a fantastic idea. Ensuring that teenagers receive the assistance they require to make educated decisions about contraception requires that healthcare professionals possess the information and abilities necessary to deliver compassionate and knowledgeable care.
Compiled by Shabirah Pergande