Use of fertility awareness methods as a component of safer conception for women in HIV-serodifferent relationships in Kenya

Reprod Health. 2021 Apr 1;18(1):73. doi: 10.1186/s12978-021-01128-5.


Background: For couples affected by HIV, and serodifferent couples in particular, pregnancy desire is often juxtaposed against the risk of HIV transmission between the couple and the potential neonate leading to thinking about measures to minimize risk of HIV transmission. We assess the use of fertility awareness methods [FAM] and evaluate the drivers of alignment between indicators of fertility and sexual behavior among HIV-serodifferent couples desiring pregnancy.

Methods: HIV-serodifferent couples from Thika, Kenya were enrolled into an open-label pilot evaluation of safer conception strategies. Women responded to daily 7-item short message service [SMS] surveys on FAM and sexual activity. Menstrual cycles were categorized as having condomless sex aligned, not aligned, or partially aligned to the predicted peak fertility. We used binomial logit models with generalized estimating equations to assess alignment between condomless sex during peak fertility days and FAM results. We used Cox proportional hazards to compare pregnancy incidence among months with sex and peak fertility aligned and mis-aligned.

Results: A total of 6929 SMS surveys across 252 menstrual cycles of 65 women were included. Reporting "sticky" cervical mucus (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 2.25, 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 1.30, 3.90) and positive ovulation prediction kit [OPK] result (aOR: 2.07, 95% CI: 1.11, 3.86) were associated with increased likelihood of alignment of condomless sex during peak fertility. Pregnancy incidence was statistically similar among periods with sex aligned and not aligned with peak fertility.

Conclusions: Among women engaged in a comprehensive safer conception program, a moderate percentage of women aligned condomless sex and predicted peak fertility days at least once. While FAM, particularly cervical mucus and OPK, are an inexpensive option for couples to consider using as a component of their safer conception strategies, antiretroviral-based strategies remain important to minimize risk.

Keywords: Conception; Family planning; Fertility; HIV.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Fertilization*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sexual Partners