Using mHealth to Support Postabortion Contraceptive Use: Results From a Feasibility Study in Urban Bangladesh

JMIR Form Res. 2017 Oct 27;1(1):e4. doi: 10.2196/formative.5151.


Background: As access to mobile technology improves in low- and middle-income countries, it becomes easier to provide information about sensitive issues, such as contraception and abortion. In Bangladesh, 97% of the population has access to a mobile signal, and the equity gap is closing in mobile phone ownership. Bangladesh has a high pregnancy termination rate and improving effective use of contraception after abortion is essential to reducing subsequent unwanted pregnancies.

Objective: This study examines the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a short message service (SMS) text message-based mHealth intervention to support postabortion contraceptive use among abortion clients in Bangladesh, including women's interest in the intervention, intervention preferences, and privacy concerns.

Methods: This feasibility study was conducted in four urban, high abortion caseload facilities. Women enrolled in the study were randomized into an intervention (n=60) or control group (n=60) using block randomization. Women completed a baseline interview on the day of their abortion procedure and a follow-up interview 4 months later (retention rate: 89.1%, 107/120). Women in the intervention group received text message reminders to use their selected postabortion contraceptive methods and reminders to contact the facility if they had problems or concerns with their method. Women who did not select a method received weekly messages that they could visit the clinic if they would like to start a method. Women in the control group did not receive any messages.

Results: Almost all women in the feasibility study reported using their mobile phones at least once per day (98.3%, 118/120) and 77.5% (93/120) used their phones for text messaging. In the intervention group, 87% (48/55) of women were using modern contraception at the 4-month follow-up, whereas 90% (47/52) were using contraception in the control group (P=.61). The intervention was not effective in increasing modern contraceptive use at follow-up, but 93% (51/55) of women reported at follow-up that the text reminders helped them use their method correctly and 76% (42/55) said they would sign up for this service again. Approximately half of the participants (53%, 29/55) said that someone they did not want to know about the text message reminders found out, mostly their husbands or children.

Conclusions: In this small-scale feasibility study, text reminders did not increase postabortion contraceptive use. Despite the ineffectiveness of the text reminder intervention, implementation of a mHealth intervention among abortion clients in urban Bangladesh was feasible in that women were interested in receiving follow-up messages after their abortion and mobile phone use was common. Text messages may not be the best modality for a mHealth intervention due to relatively low baseline SMS text message use and privacy concerns.

Keywords: Bangladesh; contraceptive usage; mHealth; postabortion contraception.