Adolescent pregnancy represents a serious public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa, and stigmatising attitudes are contributing factors. This study investigates stigmatising attitudes related to adolescent pregnancy, abortion and contraceptive use among healthcare providers working with postabortion care (PAC) in a low-resource setting in Kenya.
A mixed methods approach in a convergent design was utilised to capture attitudes related to abortion and contraceptive use among 86 (f=62; m=19) PAC providers in Kisumu, Kenya. Two Likert-scale questionnaires were used: the 18-item Stigmatising Attitudes, Beliefs and Actions Scale (SABAS) and the 7-item Contraceptive Use Stigma Scale (CUSS). 74 PAC providers responded to the SABAS, 44 to the CUSS and 12 participated in two focus group discussions. Descriptive statistics, psychometric tests of instruments and qualitative content analysis were conducted and reported in accordance with Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research.
Cronbach’s α coefficients for the total instrument was 0.88 (SABAS) and 0.84 (CUSS). The majority, 92% (68/74) agreed that a woman who has had an abortion should be treated equally to everyone else, 27% (20/74) considered abortion a sin and 30% (22/74) believed she will make abortion a habit. Contraceptive use among adolescent women was associated with promiscuity (39%; 17/44), hence contraceptives should only be available to married women (36%; 16/44), and 20% (9/44) believed that contraceptive use causes infertility. The providers encouraged women’s autonomy and their rights to sexual and reproductive health; however, unclear regulations reinforce religious and cultural beliefs, which hampers implementation of evidence-based contraceptive counselling.
Stigmatising attitudes towards young women in need of abortion and contraception is common among PAC providers. Their work is characterised by a conflict between human rights and societal norms, thus highlighting the need for interventions targeting PAC providers to reduce stigma and misconceptions related to abortion and contraception among adolescent women.