Exploring Couple Dynamics with First-Time Parents in Burkina Faso and Acceptability of Couple-Focused Interventions to Improve Their Sexual and Reproductive Health

Cover of FTP Couples dynamics report and briefGain insights on the relationship dynamics and gender and social norms that influence young parents’ health and wellbeing, and hear from health providers how couple-focused interventions can be effective in both facility and community settings to meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of first-time parents (FTPs).

The Evidence to Action (E2A) project has drawn global attention to an important subset of youth—FTPs—defined as young women under the age of 25 years who are pregnant with or have one child, and their male partners. E2A’s experiences in implementing FTP programs in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Tanzania have revealed that young parents want to discuss and address couple relationship issues, such as communication and conflict management. These programs had been reaching young men and women separately, rather than as a couple, but due to FTPs’ high level of interest in discussing relationship topics, E2A added a couple-focused component to its Burkina Faso FTP project in 2019.

Couple-focused interventions (CFIs) are a potentially valuable strategy for addressing FTPs’ concerns and accelerating progress toward achieving sexual and reproductive health (SRH) goals. However, although a large proportion of adolescents are already married in many low-income countries like Burkina Faso, little is known or has been written about the nature, needs and concerns of adolescent and youth couple relationships and how the relationship influences SRH decisions and behaviors.

Recognizing the relative invisibility of young couples in the SRH literature and policy arena, and given our program experiences working with FTPs in Burkina Faso, E2A aimed to examine the nature of the couples dynamic among youth and further explore the potential for CFIs within the FTP framework, which recognizes the needs, relationship dynamics, and gender and social norms that influence young parents’ health and wellbeing over the course of the FTP life stage. This report presents the findings from this qualitative study and offers insights that may be useful to guide future FTP programming efforts in Burkina Faso.