Barriers and motivators of contraceptive use among young people in Sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review of qualitative studies

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 4;16(6):e0252745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252745. eCollection 2021.


Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, about 80% of young women either use a traditional method or do not use any form of contraception at all. The objectives of this review were to ascertain the barriers and motivators of contraceptive use among young people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Materials and methods: We conducted electronic literature searches in PubMed, EMBASE, Ebsco/PsycINFO and Scopus. We identified a total of 4,457 publications and initially screened 2626 based on the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). A total of 13 qualitative studies were retained for the final analysis based on the Joanna Briggs criteria for assessing qualitative studies. The systematic review is registered on PROSPERO with identifier CRD42018081877.

Results: Supportive social networks, respect for privacy and confidentiality, ready availability, affordability and accessibility of contraceptives, as well as the desire to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections were the motivators of contraceptive use among young people in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite these motivators, myriad of personal, societal, and health systems-based barriers including myths and misconceptions, known side effects of contraceptives, prohibitive social norms, and negative attitude of health professionals were the major barriers to contraceptive use among young people.

Conclusion: Sub-Saharan African countries with widespread barriers to contraceptive use among young people may not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 target of achieving health for all by the year 2030. Interventions intended to improve contraceptive use need to be intersectoral and multi-layered, and designed to carefully integrate the personal, cultural, organizational and political dimensions of contraception.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Contraception Behavior*
  • Humans

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.