Publications Summary

Document Type
Analytical Studies
Publication Topic(s)
Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Haiti
Recommended Citation
MacQuarrie, Kerry L. D. and Julia Fleuret. 2022. Patterns of Reproductive Health among Women with Disabilities. DHS Analytical Studies No. 80. Rockville, Maryland, USA: ICF.
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Publication Date
June 2022
Publication ID

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Women with disabilities may experience disproportionately high unmet need for sexual and reproductive health services and face excessive barriers to accessing these services. This study leverages Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data to investigate differentials in access to health services and reproductive health outcomes in nine countries that applied the Disability Module with Washington Group Short Set of questions on functional limitations. This study is one of the first multi-country analyses of disability and multiple reproductive health outcomes. This paper uses both bivariate (crosstabs with chi-square tests of independence) and multivariable regression analysis to investigate association between women’s disability status and 10 outcomes in these areas: contraceptive knowledge; difficulties accessing health services; use of maternal health services; fertility intentions; recency of sex; and experience of unintended pregnancy. The prevalence of disability among women of reproductive age in study countries ranges from 1% (Nigeria) to 5% (Pakistan). In contrast to our expectation, we did not find widespread disadvantage in health care access and health outcomes for women with disabilities. Rather, we found that women with disabilities and those without are similar in terms of their fertility intentions, sexual activity, and use of maternal health services. Encouragingly, we find that women with disabilities have similar or higher rates of contraceptive knowledge and use and are consistently less likely to experience unintended pregnancy. Of concern, we find that in almost half of our study countries women with disabilities experience greater difficulty accessing medical services when sick. Health systems should continue to expand availability and improve quality of reproductive health services for all potential clients, including those with disabilities, and should focus on ensuring care that centers disabled clients’ needs, dignity, and autonomous choices.


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