Background: Persistent low rates of spacing contraceptive use among young wives in rural India have been implicated in ongoing negative maternal, infant and child health outcomes throughout the country. Gender inequity has been found to consistently predict low rates of contraception. An issue around contraceptive reporting however is that when reporting on contraceptive use, spouses in rural India often provide discordant reports. While discordant reports of contraceptive use potentially impede promotion of contraceptive use, little research has investigated the predictors of discordant reporting.
Methods: Using data we collected from 867 couples in rural Maharashtra India as part of a men-focused family planning randomized controlled trial. We categorized couples on discordance of men's and women's reports of current contraceptive use, communication with their spouse regarding contraception, and ideal family size, and assessed the levels of discordance for each category. We then ran multinomial regression analyses to determine predictors of discordance categories with a focus on women's empowerment (household and fertility decision-making, women's education, and women's knowledge of contraception).
Results: When individuals reported communicating about contraception and their spouses did not, those individuals were also more likely to report using contraception when their spouses did not. Women's empowerment was higher in couples in which both couples reported contraception communication or use or in couples in which only wives reported contraception communication or use. There were couple-level characteristics that predicted husbands reporting either contraception use or contraception communication when their wives did not: husband's education, husband's familiarity with contraception, and number of children.
Conclusions: Overall there were clear patterns to differential reporting. Associations with women's empowerment and contraceptive communication and use suggest a strategy of women's empowerment to improve reproductive health. Discordant women-only reports suggest that even when programs interact with empowered women, the inclusion of husbands is essential. Husband-only discordant reports highlight the characteristics of men who may be more receptive to family planning messages than are their wives. Family planning programs may be most effective when working with couples rather than just with women, and should focus on improving communication between couples, and supporting them in achieving concordance in their reproductive preferences.
Trial registration: Clinical Trials Number: NCT01593943 , registered May 4, 2012 at clinicaltrials.gov.
Keywords: Contraceptive use; Fertility preferences; Gender inequality; Gender norms; India; Spousal concordance.