Helping Contraceptives Contracept Better
By Vaibhav Bakhshi, Owen Du, Juan Fernando Gonzalez, Henry Zhuo
Problem and Solution Overview
Around half of all pregnancies in the world are unintended. This creates a huge sustainability challenge for individuals (parents) as well as the environment. We have more humans today than at any other point in history and we are also using resources at higher rates than ever before. As curious researchers, we investigated the causes of unplanned pregnancies and identified the demographic that this trend most significantly impacts. The most common victims of unplanned pregnancies happen to be youths aged 18–24. This trend presents significant environmental and financial sustainability challenges for the specified target group. In relation to our demographic, we thought about the causes for these high rates of unplanned pregnancies as well as mechanisms that could reduce these numbers.
Design Research Goals, Stakeholders, Participants
To better understand and navigate this challenge, we decided to conduct surveys and interviews for young adults between 18–24, the primary demographic impacted by unplanned pregnancies. Having the opportunity to survey this demographic would help us drive clarity regarding close-ended questions on topics like education, contraceptive use, and sexual comfort while maintaining anonymity. For our interviews, we followed up with some survey respondents which gave us the opportunity to dive deeper into their responses and ask insightful, clarifying questions. This in depth follow up process helped us gain a better understanding of our demographic’s emotions and made it easier for us to detect trends in our data. Although most of our interviewees were young, college students, some of them were foreigners residing in Europe and Latin America therefore we were able to get a wide breadth of information from a diverse sample. The interview allowed us to collect firsthand personal accounts of experiences, opinions, attitudes, and perceptions regarding contraceptive use, while having the ability to ask follow-up questions to drive clarity on the underlying factors that shape our audience’s experience with contraceptives. Our mission in our design research process was to gain a deeper understanding of the familiarity that young, sexually active folks have with contraceptives, family planning, and the environmental / financial consequences that come with having children.
Design Research Results and Themes
After conducting our surveys and interviews, we had a lot more clarity on the challenges and sentiment around unplanned pregnancies.
Through our survey, we reached 19 people, primarily male, college students, aged 18–24. The following are some interesting findings. First, as mentioned above, the biological sex of the majority of survey respondents was male (73.7%) which was a little disappointing as we were hoping for a more diverse sample. Second, an overwhelming majority of respondents (94.7%) were mindful to use contraceptives which is reassuring. Third, a sizable percentage of respondents (31.6%) felt that they did not have sufficient education about how to use contraceptives which is concerning. Next, nearly half (47.4%) of respondents said that they would still have sex with their partner if that partner did not use contraceptives. Over half (57.9%) of the respondents felt that verifying whether or not their partner uses contraceptives was difficult. Along those lines, a large majority of respondents (84.2%) wanted a way to be able to reliably verify whether or not their partner uses contraceptives. Lastly, most of the respondents (73.7%) agreed that having an unplanned child at this moment would derail their lives.
This was incredibly valuable insight and gave us guidance on framing perspicacious questions to probe deeper into the factors affecting survey respondents’ responses. We investigated our participants’ past education, current understanding, and interactions regarding contraceptive use. There were a couple of themes that emerged from these interviews across our diverse group of interviewees. On the whole, female interviewees felt they had a relatively strong understanding of contraceptive techniques and that they obtained this knowledge through prior sex-ed classes in high school. Conversely, men felt less confident about their knowledge of different forms of contraceptives. Furthermore, there was a general sentiment of confusion when asked about resources for knowledge regarding contraceptives. Interviewees reported feeling unsure of where to find reliable information and were uncomfortable asking for assistance. Interestingly, interviewees felt very comfortable discussing contraception with long-term partners but with short-term partners, they tended to beat around the bush. Interviewees also expressed interest in wanting to learn more about the long-term impacts of certain invasive contraceptive methods. The biggest challenge facing our interviewees were the exorbitant costs of contraceptives. Considering that our demographic (young people aged 18–24) is heavily strapped for cash as well as the fact that many contraceptives are single use, this means that the cost of contraceptives would compound into a significant financial burden over time. Furthermore, interviewees shared that it’s difficult to accurately and conveniently split itemized costs between partners regarding contraceptives.
Initially, our team believed access to high quality contraceptive education was the biggest gap in the market regarding contraceptives. However, through extensive research within the topic of unplanned pregnancies, our team realized the most pressing and common challenge currently facing the youth regarding effective contraception use is communication with partners regarding contraceptive use and splitting the costs of contraceptives in a transparent manner. These are two tasks our target demographic desires for improvement upon as there is a current gap within the market to enable such interaction. We recognize and realize the intimacy of communication with partners from a physical, emotional, and financial point of view. These tasks need to be performed in a portable, efficient, and frictionless manner. Therefore, our proposed solution is a mobile application that focuses on creating transparent communication regarding contraceptives between two partners and helping them effectively and clearly split costs. We aim to make it more comfortable for couples to share their preferences about contraceptives and split the financial cost to reduce the overall incidence of unplanned pregnancies.
Above is a picture of a first design sketch we made for this idea. In the first panel, you can choose whether you have male or female reproductive organs. Then, connecting with your partner is as simple as sharing a code. Afterwards, each partner fills out a form on their own about the types of contraceptives they are taking or willing to take and ones you would like your partner to take. For each option there is a direct link to gain more information about the specific contraceptive. The important part in this step is that the answers in the form are not shared with your partner to ensure that your answers are both genuine and protected. After both of you submit your answers, the application will recommend custom contraceptive plans for the both of you and display extra information such as the safety of the contraceptives combined, monthly costs when choosing the given options, and health repercussions. Additionally, you can sort the plans by safety, cost, and other metrics. Another important feature is the cost splitting function of the application, which allows you to calculate what each partner contributes financially for contraceptives and to split the monthly cost evenly. End to end, this is a fast process to set up and use and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, which allows our users to retain the human connection while leveraging technology to solve tasks efficiently.
The reason we chose this design out of our three initial designs is because of the communication aspect of this application. To prevent unplanned pregnancies, we have to reduce miscommunication between partners so that one can rely on contraceptives to do their job. This interactive design using both partners’ information allows alignment on expectations within a couple. This design also addresses the need of splitting costs for contraceptives (itemized), which as we uncovered earlier in our design research, is a very important issue and will incentivize contraception use as financial burden is reduced. Another advantage of this design is its versatility; it can be used for long-term couples that want to change their contraceptives, for new couples that are just starting to date. To illustrate this, below is a storyboard of a scenario where this application could come in handy.