Messinger C.J., Mahmud I,, Kanan S., Jahangir Y.T., Sarker M. and Faiz Rashid S. (2017) Utilization of mobile phones for accessing menstrual regulation services among low-income women in Bangladesh: a qualitative analysis, Reproductive Health (2017) 14:7
As many as one-third of all pregnancies in Bangladesh are unplanned, with nearly one-half of these pregnancies ending in either menstrual regulation (MR) or illegal clandestine abortion. Although MR is provided free of charge, or at a nominal cost, through the public sector and various non-profits organizations, many women face barriers in accessing safe, affordable MR and post-MR care. Mobile health (mHealth) services present a promising platform for increasing access to MR among low-income women at risk for clandestine abortion. We sought to investigate the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding mHealth of both MR clients and formal and informal sexual and reproductive healthcare providers in urban and rural low-income settlements in Bangladesh.
A total of 58 interviews were conducted with MR clients, formal MR providers, and informal MR providers in four low-income settlements in the Dhaka and Sylhet districts of Bangladesh. Interview data was coded and qualitatively analysed for themes using standard qualitative research practices. Our findings suggest that low-income MR clients in Bangladesh have an inadequate understanding of how to use their mobile phones to obtain health service information or counselling related to MR, and correspondingly low levels of formal or informal mHealth service utilization. Few were aware of any formal mHealth services in place in their communities, despite the fact that providers stated that hotlines were available. Overall, MR clients expressed positive opinions of mHealth services as a means of improving women’s access to affordable and timely MR. Formal and informal MR providers believed that mobile phones had benefits with respect to information dissemination and making appointments, but emphasized the necessity of in-person consultations for effective sexual and reproductive healthcare.
We report low utilization yet high acceptability of mHealth services among low-income MR clients in Bangladesh. Expanding formal and informal mHealth services targeted towards MR – and increasing publicity of these services in low-income communities – may help increase timely access to accurate MR information and formal providers among women at risk for clandestine abortion. While expanding formal and informal mHealth services for SRHR in Bangladesh may be useful in disseminating information about MR and connecting women with formal providers, in-person visits remain necessary for adequate treatment.
This project is funded by the European Union.