Experiences of women, men and healthcare workers accessing family planning services in Malawi: A grounded theory

Idesi Chilinda, Alison Cooke, Tina Lavender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The importance of modern contraceptive methods in averting unwanted pregnancies has been acknowledged in Malawi. Currently, the country has registered the highest rates of unsafe abortions, unmet needs for contraception and a low contraceptive prevalence rate. Understanding why these rates exist is important. However, women’s views and experiences regarding uptake of family planning methods in Malawi have not been explored.
Methods: A grounded theory methodology was used. Data were gathered through in-depth interviews with women (n = 18), men (n = 10), healthcare workers (n = 10) and non-participant observations of family planning clinic consultations (n = 10). Data were analysed using constant comparative technique. Methods of open, axial and selective coding enabled
subsequent conceptualisations until theoretical saturation occurred.
Results: The core category ‘disenabling environment prevents women’s family planning needs from being met’ provides an understanding of women’s, men’s and healthcare workers’ experiences of contraceptive use and non-use. The disenabling environment contributed to shaping women’s family planning experiences. This was supported by three main categories: navigating the processes, disempowerment of women and learning by chance.
Conclusion: Findings from this study illuminate contextual issues into how women, men and healthcare workers experience family planning use and non-use in Malawi. A multifaceted strategy is required to support a woman’s family planning needs. At community level, awareness and education of family planning methods is required to actively inform all people in society so that they support a woman’s family planning needs. At national level, laws that would empower women with decision-making ought to be developed and enforced.
Keywords: family planning; contraception; unmet needs; Malawi; grounded theory; experiences; women; healthcare workers; men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)a5153
Number of pages8
JournalSouth African Family Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2020


  • Malawi
  • contraception
  • experiences
  • family planning
  • grounded theory
  • healthcare workers
  • men.
  • unmet needs
  • women


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