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Open Access Research article

Persistent high fertility in Uganda: young people recount obstacles and enabling factors to use of contraceptives

Gorrette Nalwadda123*, Florence Mirembe2, Josaphat Byamugisha2 and Elisabeth Faxelid3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nursing, College of Health Sciences Makerere University P.O Box 7072, Kampala, Uganda

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Health Sciences Makerere University, P.O Box 7072, Kampala Uganda

3 Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels vag 9 S-171, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:530  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-530

Published: 3 September 2010



High fertility among young people aged 15-24 years is a public health concern in Uganda. Unwanted pregnancy, unsafe induced abortions and associated high morbidity and mortality among young women may be attributed to low contraceptive use. This study aims at exploring reasons for low contraceptive use among young people.


In 16 focus group discussions, the views of young people about obstacles and enabling factors to contraceptive use in Mityana and Mubende districts, Uganda were explored. The groups were homogeneously composed by married and unmarried men and women, between the ages of 15-24. The data obtained was analyzed using qualitative content analysis.


Young men and women described multiple obstacles to contraceptive use. The obstacles were categorized as misconceptions and fears related to contraception, gender power relations, socio-cultural expectations and contradictions, short term planning, and health service barriers. Additionally, young people recounted several enabling factors that included female strategies to overcome obstacles, changing perceptions to contraceptive use, and changing attitude towards a small family size.


Our findings suggest changing perceptions and behavior shift towards contraceptive use and a small family size although obstacles still exist. Personalized strategies to young women and men are needed to motivate and assist young people plan their future families, adopt and sustain use of contraceptives. Reducing obstacles and reinforcing enabling factors through education, culturally sensitive behavior change strategies have the potential to enhance contraceptives use. Alternative models of contraceptive service delivery to young people are proposed.