by Maia Sieverding, Eric Schatzkin, Jennifer Shen and Jenny Liu
Context: Health care providers’ biases regarding the provision of contraceptives to adolescent and young adult women may restrict women’s access to contraceptive methods.
Methods: Two mystery client visits were made to each of 52 private sector healthcare facilities and individual providers in South West Nigeria in June 2016. In one visit, the mystery client portrayed an unmarried, nulliparous adolescent, and in the other, the client portrayed a married adult woman with two children. During subsequent in-depth interviews, providers were read vignettes describing hypothetical clients with these same profiles, and were asked how they would interact with each. Descriptive analyses of mystery client interactions were combined with thematic analyses of the interview data.
Results: In greater proportions of married-profile visits than of unmarried-profile visits, mystery clients reported that providers had asked about past contraceptive use and method preference; the opposite was true in regard to providers’ using side effects to dissuade clients from practicing contraception. In in-depth interviews, providers expressed concerns about fertility loss among unmarried women who used hormonal contraceptives. Providers more commonly recommended condoms, emergency contraception and the pill for unmarried clients, and longer-acting methods for married clients. The restriction of methods was typically explained by providers of various backgrounds in terms of protecting younger, unmarried clients from damaging their fertility.
Conclusions: Provider bias in the provision of contraceptives to adolescent and young adult women in South West Nigeria may affect quality of care and method choice. Interventions to reduce provider bias should go beyond technical training to address the underlying sociocultural beliefs that lead providers to impose restrictions that are not based on evidence.