Background: Young women in Kenya experience a higher risk of mistimed and unwanted pregnancy compared to older women. However, contraceptive use among youth remains low. Known barriers to uptake include side effects, access to commodities and partner approval. Methods: To inform a youth focussed behaviour change communication campaign, Population Services Kenya developed a qualitative study to better understand these barriers among young women. The study was carried out in Nyanza, Coast, and Central regions. Within these regions, urban or peri-urban districts were purposively selected based on having contraceptive prevalence rate close to the regional average and having a population with low socioeconomic profiles. In depth interviews were conducted with a sample of sexually active women aged 15-24, both users and non-users, that were drawn from randomly selected households. Results: All the respondents in the study were familiar with modern methods of contraception and most could describe their general mechanisms of action. Condoms were not considered as contraception by many users. Contraception was also associated with promiscuity and straying. Fear of side effects and adverse reactions were a major barrier to use. The biggest fear was that a particular method would cause infertility. Many fears were based on myths and misconceptions. Young women learn about both true side effects and myths from their social networks. Conclusion: Findings from this research confirm that awareness and knowledge of contraception do not necessarily translate to use. The main barriers to modern contraceptive uptake among young women are myths and misconceptions. The findings stress the influence of social network approval on the use of family planning, beyond the individual's beliefs. In such settings, family planning programming should engage with the wider community through mass and peer campaign strategies. As an outcome from this study, Population Services Kenya developed a mass media campaign to address key myths and misconceptions among youth.
- Behaviour change communication
- Family planning
- Myths and misconceptions
- Young women