Contraception for adolescents in low and middle income countries: needs, barriers, and access

Reprod Health. 2014 Jan 2;11(1):1. doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-11-1.


Substantial numbers of adolescents experience the negative health consequences of early, unprotected sexual activity - unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortions, pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity and Sexually Transmitted Infections including Human Immunodeficiency Virus; as well as its social and economic costs. Improving access to and use of contraceptives - including condoms - needs to be a key component of an overall strategy to preventing these problems. This paper contains a review of research evidence and programmatic experiences on needs, barriers, and approaches to access and use of contraception by adolescents in low and middle income countries (LMIC). Although the sexual activity of adolescents (ages 10-19) varies markedly for boys versus girls and by region, a significant number of adolescents are sexually active; and this increases steadily from mid-to-late adolescence. Sexually active adolescents - both married and unmarried - need contraception. All adolescents in LMIC - especially unmarried ones - face a number of barriers in obtaining contraception and in using them correctly and consistently. Effective interventions to improve access and use of contraception include enacting and implementing laws and policies requiring the provision of sexuality education and contraceptive services for adolescents; building community support for the provision of contraception to adolescents, providing sexuality education within and outside school settings, and increasing the access to and use of contraception by making health services adolescent-friendly, integrating contraceptive services with other health services, and providing contraception through a variety of outlets. Emerging data suggest mobile phones and social media are promising means of increasing contraceptive use among adolescents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Contraception
  • Contraception Behavior*
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / prevention & control*
  • Sex Education
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Socioeconomic Factors