Context: Despite the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in the minimum standards of health care in humanitarian settings, access to SRH services, and especially to contraception, is often compromised in war. Very little is known about continuation and switching of contraceptive methods in these settings. An evaluation of a contraceptive services program in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was conducted to measure 12-month contraceptive continuation by type of contraceptive method (short-acting or long-acting).
Methods: A stratified systematic sample of women who initiated a contraceptive method 12-18 months prior to data collection was selected retrospectively from facility registers. A total of 548 women was interviewed about their contraceptive use: 304 who began a short-acting method (pills, injectables) and 244 who began a long-acting method (intra-uterine devices, implants). Key characteristics of short-acting method versus long-acting method acceptors were compared using chi-square statistics for categorical data and t-tests for continuous data. Unadjusted and adjusted Cox proportional hazard ratios were estimated to assess factors associated with discontinuation.
Results: At 12 months, 81.6% women reported using their baseline contraceptive method continuously, with more long-acting than short-acting contraceptive acceptors (86.1% versus 78.0%, p = .02) continuing contraceptive use. Use of a short-acting method (Hazard ratio (HR) 1.74 [95%CI 1.13-2.67]) and desiring a child within two years (HR 2.58 [95%CI 1.45-4.54]) were associated with discontinuation within the first 12 months of use. The vast majority (88.3%) of women reported no prior contraceptive use.
Conclusion: This is the first study of contraceptive continuation in a humanitarian setting. The high percentages of women continuing contraceptive use found here demonstrates that women will choose to initiate and continue use of their desired contraceptive method, even in a difficult, unstable and low contraceptive prevalence setting like North Kivu.