• contraceptive behavior;
  • family planning;
  • Health Belief Model;
  • theory-guided research

Introduction: Theory-based research is needed to understand poor contraceptive behavior and related reproductive health sequelae. The purpose of this review was to examine the Health Belief Model (HBM) as a comprehensive, well-tested social-cognitive framework suitable for explaining and predicting contraceptive behavior.

Methods: Existing literature, including editorials and research reports, describing HBM-guided contraceptive research between January 1966 and February 2011 was retrieved from established electronic databases. After consideration of inclusion/exclusion criteria, 10 articles were included in the review.

Results: Issues in original family planning applications of HBM included inconsistent conceptualizations of contraceptive behavior and limited use of all HBM constructs in research surveys, interventions, and analyses. Knowledge of contraceptive behavior has evolved, warranting more comprehensive use of the HBM for pertinent reproductive health contexts, behaviors, and methods.

Discussion: With more rigorous applications, the HBM can help us understand modern contraceptive behavior determinants and facilitate strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy and promote positive family planning outcomes.