Contraceptive use and family planning

Lead: Dr Melissa Harris

Dr Harris is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with a significant track record in understanding complex health and social outcomes for women across the lifecourse. As the program lead for the contraception and family planning stream of the WWOMB program she is undertaking research both nationally and internationally that aim to empower women (and men) with knowledge to enable them to make informed reproductive decisions using a range of innovative research methods and statistical techniques. As part of this program she is leading research that combines her interest in both contraception and chronic disease by understanding contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy in this population. Women with chronic disease are not only at increased risk of unintended pregnancy, but also adverse maternal and infant outcomes. The findings of this research will provide a platform for the development of policy guidelines and interventions aimed at reducing the physical, economic and societal costs associated with unintended pregnancy and abortion in this population.

Dr Harris is also committed to research capacity building in this area and currently supervises a number of PhD students within the WWOMB program focused on contraceptive uptake in developed and developing nations. Example projects include the uptake and decision-making practices surrounding long-acting reversible contraceptive use among young Australian women; understanding of the contraceptive practices (and barriers to contraceptive uptake) and reproductive life planning among women with HIV and the implementation of mHealth technologies to improve access and use of sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls. Importantly, increasing contraceptive knowledge and uptake by women in developing nations will allow women to effectively space births which may in turn be the key to unlocking the cycle of poverty.