Predicting high risk births with contraceptive prevalence and contraceptive method-mix in an ecologic analysis

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Background: Increased contraceptive use has been associated with a decrease in high parity births, births that occur close together in time, and births to very young or to older women. These types of births are also associated with high risk of under-five mortality. Previous studies have looked at the change in the level of contraception use and the average change in these types of high-risk births. We aim to predict the distribution of births in a specific country when there is a change in the level and method of modern contraception. Methods: We used data from full birth histories and modern contraceptive use from 207 nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys covering 71 countries to describe the distribution of births in each survey based on birth order, preceding birth space, and mother's age at birth. We estimated the ecologic associations between the prevalence and method-mix of modern contraceptives and the proportion of births in each category. Hierarchical modelling was applied to these aggregated cross sectional proportions, so that random effects were estimated for countries with multiple surveys. We use these results to predict the change in type of births associated with scaling up modern contraception in three different scenarios. Results: We observed marked differences between regions, in the absolute rates of contraception, the types of contraceptives in use, and in the distribution of type of birth. Contraceptive method-mix was a significant determinant of proportion of high-risk births, especially for birth spacing, but also for mother's age and parity. Increased use of modern contraceptives is especially predictive of reduced parity and more births with longer preceding space. However, increased contraception alone is not associated with fewer births to women younger than 18 years or a decrease in short-spaced births. Conclusions: Both the level and the type of contraception are important factors in determining the effects of family planning on changes in distribution of high-risk births. The best predictions for how birth risk changes with increased modern contraception and for different contraception methods allow for more nuanced predictions specific to each country and can aid better planning for the scaling up of modern contraception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number786
JournalBMC public health
StatePublished - Nov 7 2017


  • Birth risk
  • Contraception
  • Contraception prevalence rate
  • Hierarchical modeling
  • LiST
  • Lives Saved Tool
  • Method-mix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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