Covert contraceptive use among women attending a reproductive health clinic in a municipality in Ghana

BMC Womens Health. 2016 Jun 6:16:31. doi: 10.1186/s12905-016-0310-x.


Background: Covert contraceptive use (CCU) in sub-Saharan Africa is an indication of women's inability to exercise autonomy in their reproductive choices. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence and determinants of CCU among a sample of FP clients in a municipality of Ghana.

Methods: We conducted a mixed method study among women attending a public reproductive health clinic in Sunyani, a city of over 250,000 inhabitants in Ghana. An initial survey inquired into sociodemographic characteristics, use of family planning (FP) methods and partner awareness of contraceptive use. The predictors of CCU were explored using logistic regressions. We used the findings to develop a guide which we applied in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with attendants at the same facility. Qualitative data analysis was conducted using a framework approach.

Results: We interviewed 300 women, 48 % of whom were aged between 26-33 years. The injectable was the most widely used method (56 %). The prevalence of CCU was 34 %. In multivariate analysis, single women were more likely to practice CCU than married or co-habiting women (Adjusted OR = 12.12, 95 % C.I. 4.73-31.1). Muslim and traditionalist women were similarly more likely to practice CCU than non-Muslim, non-traditionalist (Adjusted OR = 4.56, 2.29-9.06). Women who preferred to have their first or next child in 4 or more years from the time of the interview were more likely to be in CCU than women who intended to have children within 4 years of the interview (2.57; 1.37-4.83). Single women saw in covert use a statement of their social autonomy. To succeed in CCU, women wished that clinic attendance cards would not be given to them to keep at home. Though many participants saw in CCU a source of anxiety, they expected health workers to consider it and uphold confidentiality in the provision of services.

Conclusions: Covert contraceptive use was high in this municipality and being single was the strongest predictor of the practice. Providers of FP services should reflect on how to adequately address the challenges faced by women who practice CCU.

Keywords: Contraceptive; Covert; Family planning; Ghana Africa; Method; Secret.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Christianity / psychology
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraceptive Agents / pharmacology
  • Contraceptive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Islam / psychology
  • Logistic Models
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Reproductive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Single Person / psychology
  • Single Person / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Contraceptive Agents