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“Condoms make you lose both the child and pleasure”: perceptions on family planning and contraceptives in Malawi

Pierson Ntata
Peter Mvula
Adamson S. Muula


A qualitative study comprising 91 focus group discussions (FGDs) of adult married men and women and 21 key informant interviews (KIIs) was conducted in Malawi in 2008. The purpose of the study was to explore the knowledge, perceptions and practices towards contraceptives and family planning. Data were analyzed using content analysis. The perceived effectiveness, physical health gains and socio-economic benefits of contraceptives and/or family planning were well recognized by the study participants. Covert use of contraceptives by women was despised by both men and women and considered a punishable offence. Women reported men as less likely to provide support for contraceptive use.  A woman’s own relatives were reported to be more likely to support contraceptive use, while her in-laws and friends identified as not as supportive. Concerns regarding adverse health effects of hormonal contraceptive use included vaginal bleeding and delayed return to fertility. Unwanted social or personal consequences were that vaginal bleeding or spotting as a consequence of hormonal contraceptive use limited women’s availability to their male partners for sex, that a woman who was using contraceptives was not fulfilling her childbearing responsibilities and that contraceptive use promoted extramarital sex as there was no more fear of pregnancy. Having a wide range of contraceptives in health facilities or community sources, a supportive healthcare and supportive social network could improve contraceptive uptake.