This study investigates levels and trends in modern contraceptive use among married women in Malawi and explores differences by socio-demographic characteristics. The study uses panel data from the 2000, 2004, and 2010 Malawi Demographic Health Surveys (MDHS), employing multinomial logistic regression. Background variables include the characteristics of women, such as education, urban-rural residence, age, marital status, household wealth, and access to media. In addition, the study explores differences by fertility indicators, including number of children born, desire for more children, and ideal family size.
Modern contraceptive use among married women in Malawi changed little between 2000 and 2004 but increased considerably between 2004 and 2010, from 26% to 42%. Modern contraceptive use remains higher among married women with more education, women in wealthier households, and women with more access to media, although women in most categories have shown increases in contraceptive use. For example, modern contraceptive use
among women in rural areas increased from 27% in 2004 to 39%in 2009, compared with an increase among urban women from 35% to 46% over the same period.
The study found that number of living children was significantly associated with modern contraceptive use in all three surveys. Also, women who reported that they wanted to have another child and those who were uncertain about childbearing were significantly more likely to use modern contraception in 2004 and 2010 compared with 2000. Among women who wanted no more children, contraceptive use increased significantly in 2010 compared with 2000.
Increased contraceptive use among women who want no more children and women with high parity indicate that a growing percentage of women want to limit and space childbearing. Thus making effective and long-acting contraceptive methods more available would help many women attain their desired fertility goals. At the same time, the strong association between women’s education and modern contraceptive use identified in the study suggests that considerable progress has been achieved in women’s education in Malawi, which may have contributed to increases in contraceptive use.