Family Planning and Reproductive Health


  • There may be a gap between people’s desire to space or limit childbirths and use of family planning services
  • Many hidden barriers impact behavior, even when services appear readily available
  • Thoughtfully changing the way services are provided can help more people use family planning methods

The Challenge

For people around the world, the ability to make choices about having children—whether to have them, when to have them, and how many to have—depends on a wide range of factors. Among others, things such as economic status, culture, local health policies, clinic accessibility, and levels of education all play a role. While the global efforts to improve family planning and reproductive health (FPRH) services have made great strides in the last several years, there are still many people who do not fully utilize family planning services (if they use them at all) even when they intend to.

As a result, there are high rates of stopping the use of family planning methods, unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant and maternal mortality.

What explains the gap between people’s desire to space or limit childbirths and their lack of uptake and continued use of FPRH services? There are many hidden barriers that impact people’s behavior. This includes measurable behaviors in women and men of reproductive age, their families and friends, FPRH service providers and administrators, and other community members.

Our Approach

Using behavioral science, we’re identifying ways to improve the health and future well-being of women and their families by making FPRH services more effective. We work with global health organizations and service providers around the world to identify behavioral barriers that could be removed by changing the way services are provided to women in rural and low-income areas.

ideas42 is working on different pieces of this complex global challenge:

  • While many Senegalese mothers visit health facilities to immunize their newborns, far fewer discuss family planning options with a health worker. Integrating family planning counseling into immunization services is a promising practice to address reproductive health needs in the extended postpartum period. We developed a behaviorally informed model that integrates these two services to help more women access the family planning option that is right for them. Read the project brief. 
  • Many unmarried sexually active youth in Senegal want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception. We designed a ‘Wellness Checkup,’ a free, private conversation with a nurse or midwife at a local health facility, as a low-stigma opportunity for health workers to facilitate a thoughtful decision about contraceptive needs. Results from an operational pilot in four health posts and one health center in Tambacounda indicate that the design is feasible to implement, increases youth visits to health facilities, and has the potential to shift youth contraceptive behavior. Read the project brief. 
  • Maternal mortality in Senegal remains unacceptably high with 273 maternal deaths per every 100,000 births, 4x as many as the Sustainable Development Goal of 70 or fewer per 100,000 births. Skilled birth attendants (SBA) are the most effective way to reduce morbidity and mortality among mothers, reducing serious health risks by about 20%. But low-income women and women living in rural areas are much less likely than their wealthier and urban counterparts to give birth in a facility, which is the only way to access SBA in Senegal. We conducted foundational research to understand the barriers to facility-based delivery (FBD) in Sedhiou and Kolda, two regions in southern Senegal. Read the project brief. 


By applying cutting-edge behavioral interventions to FPRH services in the developing world, we hope to help more people and families plan for the future.

Interested in learning more about this work applying behavioral science to a crucial social problem? Reach out to us at and tweet at @ideas42 to join the conversation.

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