Context: Contraceptive use among young couples in India is low, and early childbearing and short birth intervals are common. The PRACHAR Project, an ongoing intervention in Bihar, seeks to increase contraceptive use for delaying and spacing births through communication interventions.
Methods: Random samples of married women younger than 25 with no more than one child were surveyed in 2002-2003, before PRACHAR was implemented (N=1,995), and in 2004, 21-27 months after implementation (N=2,080). Contraceptive demand and use, and related attitudes and knowledge, were assessed in the two surveys in both intervention areas and comparison areas. Logistic regression was used to assess the effect of the interventions on these indicators.
Results: Contraceptive use was very low (2-6%) at baseline in both comparison and intervention areas. Demand for contraception increased from 25% at baseline to 40% at follow-up in intervention areas, but remained virtually unchanged in comparison areas. At follow-up, contraceptive use had risen in both areas, but the adjusted odds of use in intervention areas were 3.8 times those in comparison areas. Women in intervention areas had elevated odds of knowing that fertility varies during the menstrual cycle, and of agreeing that early childbirth can be harmful and that contraceptive use is necessary and safe for delaying first births (odds ratios, 1.6-3.0).
Conclusion: Culturally appropriate, community-based communication programs that target youth and those who influence their decisions can create demand for contraception among young couples and lead to increased contraceptive use.