Globally, few programs consider the needs of first-time young parents (FTYPs), who face disproportionate negative health consequences during pregnancy and childbirth. Scant evidence exists on FTYPs‘ broader health needs. Formative research in two regions of Madagascar used a socio-ecological lens to explore, via 44 interviews and 32 focus group discussions, the influences on FTYPs at the individual, couple, family, community, and system levels. We spoke with FTYPs who had, and who had not, used sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, their parents/kin and influential adults, and community health workers and facility health providers. Data analysis, guided by a codebook, used Atlas.ti.
Age, social position, and implicit power dynamics operating within and across socio-ecological levels affected FTYPs‘ service-seeking behaviors. The nature and extent of influence varied by health service type. Cross-cutting social factors affecting service use/non-use included gender dynamics, pressures from mothers, in-laws, and family tradition, and adolescent stigmatization for too-early pregnancy. Structural and economic factors included limited awareness of and lack of trust in available services, unfriendliness of services, and FTYPs‘ limited financial resources. A socio-ecological program perspective can inform tailoring of activities to address broader SRH issues, including how relationships, gender, power, and intergenerational dynamics influence service use.