Are 'low socioeconomic status' and 'religiousness' barriers to minority women's use of contraception? A qualitative exploration and critique of a common argument in reproductive health research.

Authors:
Sara Johnsdotter
Sara Johnsdotter
Malmö University
Sweden
Birgitta Essen
Birgitta Essen
Lund University
Sweden

Midwifery 2019 Mar 25;75:59-65. Epub 2019 Mar 25.

Department of Women's and Children's Health (IMCH), Uppsala University, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden.

Objective: 'Low socioeconomic status' and 'religiousness' appear to have gained status as nearly universal explanatory models for why women in minority groups are less likely to use contraception than other women in the Scandinavian countries. Through interviews with pious Muslim women with immigrant background, living in Denmark and Sweden, we wanted to gain empirical insights that could inform a discussion about what 'low socioeconomic status' and 'religiousness' might mean with regard to women's reproductive decisions.

Design: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in Denmark and Sweden between 2013 and 2016.

Findings: We found that a low level of education and a low income were not necessarily obstacles for women's use of contraception; rather, these were strong imperatives for women to wait to have children until their life circumstances become more stable. Arguments grounded in Islamic dictates on contraception became powerful tools for women to substantiate how it is religiously appropriate to postpone having children, particularly when their financial and emotional resources were not yet established.

Conclusion: We have shown that the dominant theory that 'low socioeconomic status' and 'religiousness' are paramount barriers to women's use of contraception must be problematized. When formulating suggestions for how to provide contraceptive counseling to women in ethnic and religious minority groups in Denmark and Sweden, one must also take into account that factors such as low financial security as well as religious convictions can be strong imperatives for women to use contraception.

Implications For Practice: This study can help inform a critical discussion about the difficulties of using broad group-categorizations for understanding individuals' health-related behavior, as well as the validity of targeted interventions towards large heterogeneous minority groups in Scandinavian contraceptive counseling.

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Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2019.03.017DOI Listing
March 2019
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