Background: Providing contraceptive education is now considered a standard component of postpartum care. The effectiveness is seldom examined. Questions have been raised about the assumptions on which such programs are based, e.g., that postpartum women are motivated to use contraception and that they will not return to a health center for family planning advice. Surveys indicate that women may wish to discuss contraception prenatally and after hospital discharge. Nonetheless, two-thirds of postpartum women may have unmet needs for contraception. In particular, many adolescents become pregnant again within a year a giving birth.
Objectives: Assess the effects of educational interventions for postpartum mothers about contraceptive use
Search strategy: We searched the computerized databases of MEDLINE, CENTRAL, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and POPLINE. We also searched for current trials via ClinicalTrials.gov and ICTRP. In addition, we examined reference lists of relevant articles, and contacted subject experts to locate additional reports.
Selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials were considered if they evaluated the effectiveness of postpartum education about contraceptive use. The intervention must have started postpartum and have occurred within one month of delivery.
Data collection and analysis: We assessed for inclusion all titles and abstracts identified during the literature searches with no language limitations. The data were abstracted and entered into RevMan. Studies were examined for methodological quality. For dichotomous outcomes, the Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio (OR) with 95% CI was calculated using a fixed-effect model.
Main results: Eight trials met the inclusion criteria. Of four trials with short-term interventions in the immediate postpartum period, one did not have sufficient data and one was statistically underpowered. The remaining two showed a positive effect on contraceptive use. However, most comparisons did not show an effect in one study and the other had short-term assessments. Of four multifaceted programs with multiple contacts, two showed fewer pregnancies or births among adolescents in the experimental group that had enhanced services, and a structured home-visiting program showed more contraceptive use. The effective interventions were conducted in Australia, Nepal, Pakistan, and the USA.
Authors' conclusions: Postpartum education about contraception led to more contraception use and fewer unplanned pregnancies. Both short-term and multiple-contact interventions had effects. The former were limited by self-reported outcomes or showing no effect for many comparisons. The longer-term interventions were promising and not necessarily more costly than usual care. Health care providers can determine if one of these interventions suits their setting and level of resources.