Objective: To estimate the accuracy of self-screening for contraindications to combined oral contraceptive pills (COCs) and to estimate the proportion of women with contraindications to hormonal methods among those using drug shops in Tanzania.
Methods: Trained nurses interviewed 1651 women aged 18-39 years who self-screened for contraindications to COCs with the help of a poster at drug shops in Tanzania. Nurse assessment of the women served as the gold standard for comparison with self-assessment. Blood pressure was also measured onsite.
Results: Nurses reported that 437 (26.5%) women were not eligible to use COCs, compared with 485 (29.4%) according to self-report. Overall, 133 (8.1%) women who said that they were eligible were deemed ineligible by nurses. The rate of ineligibility was artificially high owing to participant and nurse assessments that were incorrectly based on adverse effects of pill use and cultural reasons, and because of the sampling procedure, which intercepted women regardless of their reasons for visiting the drug shop. Adjusted rates of ineligibility were 8.6% and 12.7%, respectively, according to nurse and participant assessment. Both nurses and women underestimated the prevalence of hypertension in the present group.
Conclusion: Self-screening among women in rural and peri-urban Tanzania with regard to contraindications to COC use was comparable to assessment by trained nurses.
Keywords: Combined oral contraceptive pills; Contraindications; Hormonal contraception; Injectable contraception; Oral contraceptives; Over-the-counter status; Self-screening.