Understanding the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on family planning demand
A new SHOPS plus brief, Leveraging Chatbots to Understand the Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning Demand: Insights from Users in Four Countries, highlights finding from a SHOPS Plus study that examines changes in contraceptive behavior in relation to the pandemic. The project partnered with Nivi, a global digital platform, and their digital health chatbot called AskNivi, to see if the platform could generate timely, affordable data to understand shifts in demand. The activity sought to answer three questions:
- How have women changed their contraceptive behavior from pre-COVID-19 to now?
- What drove those changes?
- Is this a feasible, replicable, and cost-effective approach for generating insights into rapid shifts in demand that stakeholders could apply during future global market shocks?
Across all participants in the SHOPS Plus study, 59 percent of women were using a contraceptive method both before the pandemic began and at the time of the survey. Just over 1 in 10 (11 percent) of women were using a method pre-pandemic and then stopped. A majority of the women who stopped using a method during the pandemic cited a typical reason that does not seem related to the pandemic: a desire to get pregnant (30 percent) or side effects (29 percent). Approximately one in four women who stopped using family planning cited a COVID-19-related reason.
Overall, 62 percent of respondents reported that they had difficulty accessing a family planning method between the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the data collection period. The difficulty most frequently cited was that lockdowns made travel difficult (25 percent), followed by method stockouts (20 percent), concern about getting COVID-19 (18 percent), and the fact that providers were closed (13 percent).
This effort informed a rapid pulse check of the challenges that certain demographics of women faced accessing contraceptives during COVID-19 and the adaptations they made to continue accessing their chosen method. This information can help stakeholders across the supply value chain to better prepare for changes in demand within the dynamic context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developing more rapid and low-cost approaches to monitoring changes in demand at the country and local levels can help governments and their private sector partners better anticipate shifts in the family planning market and prepare to address potential shocks.