Skip to main content

Testing a counseling message for increasing uptake of self-injectable contraception in southern Malawi

A mixed-methods, clustered randomized controlled study

Objective: While self-injection of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) has well-documented benefits, uptake may be improved by addressing client concerns such as fear of self-injury and low self-efficacy. However, current training materials for family planning providers do not address these concerns. We used an iterative process with family planning providers and clients, male community leaders and partners, and stakeholders in Malawi to develop a counseling message addressing user-centered concerns about self-injection. We report on our testing of the effectiveness of this evidence-based message for increasing self-injection uptake in the context of full method choice.

Methods: We randomized 60 public facilities across two districts in southern Malawi to orient their providers to the message (treatment) or not (control). After strengthening data quality, we extracted routine service delivery data from the facilities six months before and after introducing the message. We compared pre- and post-orientation trends for the treatment and control groups using generalized linear mixed models. We conducted eight focus group discussions with a sample of providers oriented to the message.

Results: The message was feasible to implement and highly acceptable to providers. During June 2020–June 2021, 16,593 new clients used injectables in Mangochi district (52% DMPA-SC; 15% self-injected). In Thyolo district, 7,761 new clients used injectables during July 2020–July 2021 (29% DMPA-SC; 14% self-injected). We observed high variability in number of clients and self-injection uptake across facilities and over time, indicating inconsistent offering of self-injection. In both districts, we found significant increases in self-injection in treatment facilities after message introduction. However, this increase was not sustained, especially when DMPA-SC was unavailable or about to expire.

Conclusion: Based on the study findings, we recommend the evidence-based message be used in programs offering DMPA-SC self-injection services. However, effective use of the message is contingent upon a consistent supply of DMPA-SC.

  • Journal article PLoS ONE