Knowledge and Beliefs about Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology among Mexican-Origin Women in the U.S.: Implications for Effective Oral Contraceptive Use

Michele G. Shedlin, New York University
Jon Amastae, University of Texas at El Paso

Inherent in many reproductive health and family planning programs is the problematic assumption that the body, its processes, and modifications to it are universally experienced in the same way. This paper addresses contraceptive knowledge and beliefs among Mexican-origin women using data gathered by the qualitative component of the Border Contraceptive Access Study. Open-ended interviews explored the mechanism of action of the pill, side effects, non-contraceptive benefits, and general knowledge of contraception. Nearly one-third stated they did not understand how the pill works. Findings revealed complex connections between accurate and inaccurate information. Use of scientific terms ("hormone") illustrated attempts to integrate new information with existing knowledge and belief systems. Conclusions address concerns that existing information and services may not be sufficient if population-specific knowledge and beliefs are not assessed and addressed. Findings can contribute to the development of effective education, screening, and reproductive health services.

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Presented in Session 21: On the Border: Understanding Family Planning