Women’s sexual experiences as a side effect of contraception in low- and middle-income countries: evidence from a systematic scoping review

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Contraception is essential to preventing unintended pregnancy. While contraceptive use has increased significantly over the past decade, discontinuation and gaps in use remain common. Although women cite side effects as the reason for discontinuing or stopping methods, little is known about the specific ways in which contraception affects women’s sexual experiences. This systematic scoping review aimed to understand how contraceptive-induced side effects relating to women’s sexual experiences have been measured, classified, and explored in the literature, specifically in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Studies were eligible for inclusion if they were peer-reviewed, English-language articles published between 2003 and 2018 that examined women’s sexual experiences related to their use of modern contraception, including sexual satisfaction, arousal, sexual dysfunction, discomfort, vaginal dryness, sexual frequency, and relationship or partner dynamics. Study populations were restricted to women of reproductive age in LMICs. Twenty-two studies were deemed eligible for inclusion, comprising a range of methods and geographies. Emergent sexual experience themes included: menstrual issues impacting sexual experience; libido; lubrication; sexual pleasure; dyspareunia; and female sexual function. Results highlight the variability in measures used, lack of a women-centred perspective, and void in research outside of high-income countries to study the influence of contraception on women’s sexual experiences. Very few studies focused on women’s sexual experiences as the primary outcome or predictor. Providers should adopt woman-centred contraceptive counselling that considers women’s relationships. Further research is needed to disentangle the nuanced effects of contraception on women’s sex lives, contraceptive decision-making, and method continuation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1763652
JournalSexual and Reproductive Health Matters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • contraception
  • discontinuation
  • sex
  • sexual pleasure
  • side effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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