Patterns and trends of contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Nigeria: evidence from cross-sectional studies.

The benefits of universal access to voluntary contraception have been widely documented in terms of maternal and newborn survival, women’s empowerment, and human capital. Given population dynamics, the choices and opportunities adolescents have in terms of access to sexual and reproductive health information and services could significantly affect the burden of diseases and nations’ human capital.

There are two different groups of sexually active adolescents: those married or in a union with very low use of modern contraception and lower socio-economic status, and those unmarried, among whom nearly 50% are using modern contraception. Younger adolescents have lower modern contraceptive prevalence. There are significant inequality issues in modern contraception use by education, residence, and wealth quintile. However, while there was no significant progress in Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the data in Ethiopia point to a significant and systematic reduction of inequalities. The narrowing of the equity gap was most notable for childbearing adolescents with no education or living in rural areas. In the three countries, after adjusting for socio-economic variables, the strongest factors affecting modern contraception use among childbearing adolescents were marriage and child immunisation.

Addressing child marriage and adopting effective policies and strategies to reach married adolescents are critical for improving empowerment and human capital of adolescent girls. The reduction of the equity gap in coverage in Ethiopia warrants further studies and documentation. The results suggest a missed opportunity for maternal and newborn and family planning integration.