Contraceptive knowledge and use among women living in the poorest areas of five Mesoamerican countries

Published January 23, 2017, in Contraception (opens in a new window)


To identify factors associated with contraceptive use among women in need living in the poorest areas in five Mesoamerican countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and State of Chiapas (Mexico).

Study design

We analyzed baseline data of 7049 women of childbearing age (15–49 years old) collected for the Salud Mesoamérica Initiative. Data collection took place in the 20% poorest municipalities of each country (July, 2012-August, 2013).


Women in the poorest areas were very poorly informed about family planning methods. Concern about side effects was the main reason for nonuse. Contraceptive use was lower among the extremely poor (<$1.25 USD PPP per day) [odds ratio (OR): 0.75; confidence interval (CI): 0.59–0.96], those living more than 30 min away from a health facility (OR 0.71, CI: 0.58–0.86), and those of indigenous ethnicity (OR 0.50, CI: 0.39–0.64). Women who were insured and visited a health facility also had higher odds of using contraceptives than insured women who did not visit a health facility (OR 1.64, CI: 1.13–2.36).


Our study showed low use of contraceptives in poor areas in Mesoamerica. We found the urgent need to improve services for people of indigenous ethnicity, low education, extreme poverty, the uninsured, and adolescents. It is necessary to address missed opportunities and offer contraceptives to all women who visit health facilities. Governments should aim to increase the public's knowledge of long-acting reversible contraception and offer a wider range of methods to increase contraceptive use.


We show that unmet need for contraception is higher among the poorest and describe factors associated with low use. Our results call for increased investments in programs and policies targeting the poor to decrease their unmet need.

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Rios-Zertuche D, Blanco LC, Zúñiga-Brenes P, Palmisano EB, Colombara DV, Mokdad AH, Iriarte E. Contraceptive knowledge and use among women living in the poorest areas of five Mesoamerican countriesContraception. 23 Jan 2017.