Exploring knowledge, attitudes and practices among undergraduate female students living in tertiary institution residences in KwaZulu-Natal with regards to the use of contraceptives.
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Background: Risky sexual behaviour is a significant part of an undergraduate student life, which can often result in unintended pregnancies, leading to major social and public health concerns. Despite the free availability of contraceptives at tertiary institutions in KwaZulu-Natal, the number of undergraduate students becoming pregnant continues to increase. Aim of the Study: To explore the knowledge, attitudes and practices among female undergraduate students in tertiary institution residences in KwaZulu-Natal with regards to contraceptive use. Method: A quantitative exploratory descriptive survey was conducted to explore the knowledge, attitude and practice among ninety-seven female undergraduate students living in campus residences in a tertiary institution in KwaZulu-Natal. The conceptual framework used for this study was the Health Belief Model, according to which healthrelated actions can be influenced positively by one’s knowledge, attitude and practice if one perceives the severity of a negative health condition. A hand-delivered, selfadministered questionnaire was used to collect data, containing 27 items divided into five sections, including the demographic profile of participants, and questions pertaining to knowledge, attitude and practice, as well as barriers /factors promoting contraceptive use. Data was entered and analysed using the SPSS version 23 package. Results: Among the participants, n=95 (97.9%) indicated that they were knowledgeable of the contraceptives methods, while n=89 (91.8%) participants indicated that contraceptives prevented pregnancies; yet, unintended pregnancies remain a major problem amongst university students. A majority of the students had a positive attitude towards contraceptive use, where n=75 (77.3%) of the participants indicated that contraceptive education should begin at puberty. Results indicated that a large percentage of the participants were not aware of some of the methods of contraception that are available to them, namely spermicidal: n=93 (95.9%); dermal patch n=82 (84.5%); natural family planning: n=78 (80.4%); and the intra-uterine device: n=76 (78.4%); which may be the reason for the low percentage of participants that practice these methods. It was found that n=3 (3.1%) of the participants practiced the spermicidal method; n= 2 (2.1%) the dermal patch; n=3 (3.1%) natural family planning and n=5 (5.2%) the intra-uterine device. The contraceptive participants practiced most with was condoms n=59 (60.8%), followed by injectable contraceptives n=34 (35%), and oral contraceptives n=14 (14.4%), respectively. A low percentage of the participants indicated that there were barriers to contraceptive use, where n=6 (6.2%) participants indicated that they do not know how close a reproductive health service is to them, n=18 (18.6%) indicated that they cannot easily access the family planning clinic at their campus and n=15 (15.5%) indicated that the clinic hours are not convenient for them. A majority of the participants n=80 (82.5%) indicated that the campus clinics promoted the use of contraceptives amongst students. The results in the current study indicated a high level of awareness of contraceptive methods, as shown in Table 5, p. 36, and a low percentage of practice of those very same contraceptive methods as shown in Table 8, p. 42. Conclusion: A majority of the students were knowledgeable about the convenient contraceptive methods, and have positive attitudes towards them, but practices with contraceptives remained inadequate, although participants indicated minimal barriers to reproductive health services. There is a need to further explore student-friendly methods to reach out to students to accept and practice contraception as part of their daily lives.