"When it comes to time of removal, nothing is straightforward": A qualitative study of experiences with barriers to removal of long-acting reversible contraception in Western Kenya

Contracept X. 2021 Mar 22:3:100063. doi: 10.1016/j.conx.2021.100063. eCollection 2021.


Objective: Barriers to removal of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) threaten reproductive self-determination, but their influence on contraceptive behaviors is not well understood. We describe perspectives of women in Western Kenya concerning LARC removal barriers.

Study design: We used a qualitative descriptive approach with conventional content analysis to analyze transcripts for content and themes from eight focus group discussions (n = 55 participants) and one client journey mapping workshop (n = 9 participants) with women ages 18-49 in Western Kenya who were currently using or had formerly used contraceptives.

Findings: Our primary themes concerned women's experience of LARC removal barriers and the impact on their behaviors and attitudes towards contraception. Women described providers being unwilling to remove LARC, regardless of rationale (including expiration, seeking pregnancy, or experiencing intolerable side effects) or demanding unaffordable fees. Women were reluctant to try LARC for fear of having to use the method for its entire lifespan even if they did not like it. Women saw LARC removal barriers as increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy through non-replacement of expired devices and fostering distrust in the health system.

Conclusion: Barriers to LARC removal may discourage utilization of LARC and contraceptive services generally, which can undermine women's efforts to achieve reproductive self-determination.

Implications: Our findings affirm the importance of timely LARC removal to ensure that family planning programs uphold women's reproductive autonomy.

Keywords: Implant; Intrauterine device; Kenya; Long-acting reversible contraception; Removal; Sub-Saharan Africa.