Awareness and use of and barriers to family planning services among female university students in Lesotho
Background. Unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young women can be prevented through dual protection (i.e. condom use plus another method). Unmet needs for contraception and rates of unintended pregnancy among young women are high in the developing world. Aim. To assess the level of awareness of contraceptives and utilisation of family planning services among young women, and barriers that hinder effective use of such services. Methods. In a quantitative descriptive survey, 360 female undergraduate students at the National University of Lesotho responded to a hand-delivered self-administered questionnaire. Results. Awareness of family planning was high (97.5%). The condom was the most commonly known and used family planning method. The level of sexual experience and the prevalence of contraceptive use were high. Access to services was good. There were some misconceptions, e.g. that contraceptives other than the condom, such as natural family planning (4.7%), the vaginal ring (3.3%) and male or female sterilisation (2.8%), can prevent STIs. Married status was associated with current use of contraceptives, and having been formally taught about family planning was associated with the belief that it causes cancer. The unmet contraceptive need in the sample was 24.9%. Conclusion. Levels of awareness and utilisation of family planning services are high among female students at the University of Lesotho. There is a need to introduce family planning teaching based on accurate facts into the school curriculum.