New research explores women’s contraceptive counseling preferences in urban Mexico

Women deserve information about birth control that meets their needs. Client-centered counseling is at the heart of high-quality family planning. Patients who receive quality counseling are more likely to use and continue birth control and return to the healthcare system if they aren’t satisfied and want to try a new method. Yet few investigations have explored what individual women prefer, especially outside the United States.

New research from The Program in Woman-Centered Contraception and partners investigates women’s preferences in Mexico to inform efforts to improve the quality of family planning services. Several key themes emerged from their focus groups:

  • Establishing trust. Trust was key to how women described an ideal interaction, especially given historical abuses against women’s autonomy. Without that trust, women were reluctant to express their needs and preferences or ask questions, and were less likely to return.
  • Respectful treatment. Women wanted providers to respect their bodies and their decisions, and not make rude or judgmental comments. A unique aspect from this study was concern that providers not engage in inappropriate touching or sexual harassment.
  • Privacy and confidentiality. Counseling should happen in a private space, and it should be clear that the discussion will not leave the room.
  • Information exchange and decision support. Women desired clear, complete and correct information, including step by step explanation of how a birth control method works and the impact on a woman’s body. Older women expected providers to play a more central role in selecting a method.

Because some women had direct experience or had heard about someone dealing with postpartum expulsion of IUDs, some felt that there should be a clinical exam to determine whether a method was right for them. This desire for an exam isn’t medically necessary, so it is important for providers to validate and respectfully address women’s concerns while not conducting unnecessary exams and tests.

The findings from this study are unique in shedding light on the underrepresented perspective of what family planning clients desire. These themes can be used to bolster quality improvements and measure client satisfaction in urban Mexico.