Unintended pregnancy and an unmet need for modern contraception remain high among adolescent girls and women in Cambodia. Qualitative descriptive research was conducted to explore the barriers to contraceptive use among young women in urban Cambodia.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted among 30 adolescent girls and women aged 16–27 years, using purposive and snowball sampling strategies until data saturation was achieved. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and quality-checked. Inductive thematic data analysis was conducted. The results are presented using Bronfenbrenner’s theoretical social ecological model.


The emerging major and minor themes indicate misconceptions about hormonal contraception as well as women’s preference for using oral contraceptive pills for family planning after an unintended pregnancy. Women had low autonomy in choosing a contraceptive method, as their partners or husbands tended to prefer the withdrawal method. Young women faced cultural and supply chain barriers in accessing short- and long-acting reversible modern contraceptive methods at health centres.


Cambodian women aged 16–27 years are a vulnerable group who have low autonomy and sexual and reproductive health literacy and also face gender inequality.

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