Interruptions in contraception and unintended pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic: A protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis

Womens Health (Lond). 2023 Jan-Dec;19:17455057221147382. doi: 10.1177/17455057221147382.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted access to and use of maternal, newborn, and child health services. Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions implemented during the first wave of the pandemic, the provision of essential maternal health services such as family planning was critically affected. Unlike most healthcare, contraception-related services are impractical for virtual care provision as women need to attend the clinic in person. Therefore, most women across the world might have been left with an unmet need for contraception during the lockdown period. Interruptions in contraception services have led to an increased number of unintended pregnancies. With the emergence of several pocket studies, it is essential to pool the available evidence reporting the effects of COVID-19 on contraception to inform maternal health policy and practice.

Objective: The aims of this review are (1) to determine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to contraceptives among sexually active women and (2) to identify the magnitude of unintended pregnancy linked to interruptions of contraceptives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: The protocol for this systematic review was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42021267077). Electronic databases such as MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar will be searched for articles using appropriate key terms. The identified articles will be assessed against the eligibility criteria. Two reviewers (A.B. and T.B.) will independently screen titles and abstracts of all retrieved articles followed by a full-text review using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses checklist. The quality of the papers will be assessed by using the Risk of Bias Assessment tool for Non-Randomized Studies. Quantitative findings will be pooled using a random-effects model meta-analysis, while qualitative findings will be presented using a narrative synthesis.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval is not required. The findings will be disseminated through conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications.

Discussion: This systematic review will present current data needed to design evidence-based programmes for improving access to contraception and preventing unintended pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42021267077.

Keywords: COVID-19; access; contraception; lockdown; unintended pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Contraception*
  • Contraceptive Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Pandemics
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned*
  • Quarantine
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic


  • Contraceptive Agents