Is LARC for Everyone? A Qualitative Study of Sociocultural Perceptions of Family Planning and Contraception Among Refugees in Ethiopia

Matern Child Health J. 2017 Sep;21(9):1699-1705. doi: 10.1007/s10995-016-2018-9.


Objective Ethiopia is home to an increasingly large refugee population. Reproductive health care is a critical issue for these groups because refugee women are at high risk for unmet family planning needs. Efforts to expand contraceptive use, particularly long acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods are currently underway in several Ethiopian refugee camps. Despite availability of LARC methods, few refugee women opt to use them. The purpose of this study was to explore how culture influences contraceptive attitudes and behaviors, particularly towards LARC methods, among Ethiopia's refugee populations. Methods Focus group discussions and individual interviews were conducted with Eritrean and Somali refugees living in Ethiopia. The qualitative data was analyzed to identify important themes highlighting the relationship between cultural values and contraceptive attitudes and behaviors. Results Childbearing was highly valued among participants in both study groups. Eritreans reported desire to limit family size and attributed this to constraints related to refugee status. Somalis used cultural and religious faith to deal with economic scarcity and were less likely to feel the need to adapt contraceptive behaviors to reduce family size. Participants held overall positive views of the contraceptive implant. Attitudes toward the intrauterine device (IUD) were overwhelmingly negative due to its long-acting nature. Conclusions Culture, religion and refugee status form a complex interplay with family planning attitudes and behaviors among Eritrean and Somali refugees. For these populations, the three-year implant appears to be a more acceptable contraceptive method than the longer-acting IUD because it is in line with their reproductive plans.

Keywords: Contraception behavior; Contraceptive implant; Family planning; Intrauterine device; Refugee; Sub-Saharan Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraception / methods*
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception Behavior / ethnology*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Eritrea / ethnology
  • Ethiopia / epidemiology
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Qualitative Research
  • Refugees* / psychology
  • Refugees* / statistics & numerical data
  • Somalia / ethnology