Assessment of the experience and impact of contraceptive stockouts on women, providers, and policymakers in Uganda

Improving access to contraception is cost effective and improves women’s and children’s health, helps to reduce maternal mortality, and supports women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights. However, in many developing country settings, women have access to a limited range of methods and stockouts of methods are common.

In order to generate new data on the magnitude and impact of stockouts of family planning methods, we completed a review of the published and gray literature and found that most existing literature focuses on the prevalence of contraceptive stockouts, but not on women’s experiences with them.

To address these gaps in the evidence, we conducted research in Uganda in partnership with the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition to gain an understanding of how contraceptive stockouts impact women, and how they are perceived by healthcare providers and policymakers. Results found that stockouts were common, particularly for long-term methods and oral contraceptives, and the impacts were numerous. For women, these included stress, increased costs, domestic conflict, and unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. Providers reported emotional distress, blame, deterioration of skills, and lower demand for their services. Despite the prevalence and adverse impacts, providers felt an inability to address stockouts, and there was a lack of recognition of problem scope at the policymaker level.