Ugandan Women’s View of the IUD: Generally Favorable but Many Have Misperceptions About Health Risks


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Background: Between 2001 and 2006, intrauterine device (IUD) use in Uganda stagnated at 0.2% among women of reproductive age (WRA) ages 15–49. By 2011, IUD use had increased slightly to 0.4%. Recent studies report a significant increase in IUD use to 3.8%, but it is still low. Because the IUD is a little-used method in Uganda, we assessed the acceptability of the IUD by surveying women about their perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs.
Methods: In August and September 2014, we conducted a cross-sectional survey among 1,505 WRA exiting public and private health facilities in Uganda.We collected information on women’s attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs about the IUD, as well as their perceptions about its availability. We classified women’s responses according to a behavior change framework with 3 summary constructs: opportunity (structural factors that influence behavior), ability (skills to perform the behavior), and motivation (self-interest in adopting the behavior). As these 3 types of factors are more favorable to the desired behavior (in this case, use of the IUD), individuals are more likely to perform the behavior. Cross-tabulations compared the percentage results of perceptions and knowledge by key background characteristics.
Results: Most (87.8%) of the surveyed women had heard of the IUD, and nearly two-thirds had a positive attitude toward the method. But a lower percentage (38.6%) had accurate information about the IUD and more than half (51.6%) did not think the method was available in a nearby facility. More than half of the women believed incorrectly that the IUD can damage the womb (57%), that it reduces sexual pleasure (54%), and that it can cause cancer (58%). Current use of family planning or of a modern method specifically was positively associated with awareness and accurate knowledge and beliefs about the IUD. Married women had significantly higher awareness of the IUD than single women, and they had better knowledge and belief scores. The type of facility used for health care services (public, private franchise, or private non-franchise) may also influence acceptance of the IUD.
Conclusion: Interventions to increase the use of IUDs in Uganda should address low availability of the method in facilities, as well as misperceptions and misinformation, especially about the safety of the IUD. Demand promotion should address provider misperceptions in addition to client misperceptions and should include interpersonal communication and the mass media.