In this study, the pooled prevalence of modern contraceptives was 18.36% (18.23–18.48%). Socio-demographic factors (residency, maternal education, husband education), the person who provides health care decision making, wealth index, media exposure, obstetric history-related factors such as PNC utilization, place of delivery, and birth order were significantly associated with modern contraceptive utilization in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The highest modern contraceptive utilization was found in the southern Africa region (38.43%) and the lowest in the central Africa region (9.46%). This study showed that in the southern Africa region the highest prevalence was noticed in Lesotho (59.79%) and the lowest in Swaziland (19.99%). In the Eastern Africa region, the overall modern contraceptive prevalence was 35.99% with the highest and lowest prevalence was found in Zimbabwe (65.77%) and Mozambique (11.34%), respectively. The overall modern contraceptive in the western Africa region was 13.14%. Of these, the highest prevalence was found in Ghana (22.19%) and the lowest prevalence of modern contraceptives was found in Gambia (8.08%). The highest prevalence in central Africa (19.99% in Congo ) was lower than the lowest prevalence in many other countries.
This finding is in line with a recent review performed in the SSA . Besides, the current study is in line with a study from the 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) report that showed that 5.4 children were born from a mother . This indicates the uptake of modern contraceptives in the SSA region is still low. This could be because of repeated conflicts and security issues, the need for a large family, fear of side effects like infertility, religious and cultural restrictions sex preference, spouse consent and support, high level of illiteracy, poverty, and health system barriers in the sub-Saharan Africa region . Even though the possible barriers are perfectly preventable, measures applied to ensure adequate uptake of modern contraceptive in the SSA was very limited . Thus, it is of the essence to all SSA countries to ensure the implementation of adequate sustainable measures to increase the uptake of modern contraception. As a result, they will guarantee sustainable global development, poverty alleviation, increased life expectancy, empowering of women, promoting of health through the reduction of maternal mortality, morbidity, unsafe abortion, and improve child survival through birth spacing [26, 27].
The finding of the current study result is low than the SDG target (75%) . A rise in the proportion of women of reproductive age who use modern contraception to meet their family planning needs (SDG indicator 3.7.1) will help in achieving other 2030 Agenda goals and targets, such as lowering maternal mortality (SDG 3.1.1) and under-5 child mortality (SDG 3.1.2), increase educational attainment (SDG 4.3.1), and to reduce the number of women and children living in poverty (SDG 1.2.1) .
The African region, residency, maternal education, husband education, the person who provides health care decision making, wealth index, media exposure, PNC utilization, place of delivery, and birth order were significantly associated with modern contraceptive utilization in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The odds of having modern contraceptive were low in the central, eastern, and western African region compared with the southern African region. This study is in agreement with a trend analysis carried out in SSA countries between 1990 and 2014 . According to the findings of the former study Southern African region had a faster increase in contraceptive prevalence rate with some countries achieving almost 60% and trends in completed family size is the lowest compared with other African regions. In contrast, the Central Africa region has a steady contraceptive rate and the lowest across the period and had the highest total fertility rate, completed family size, and family size preference. As a result, the progression of modern contraceptive utilization in the central Africa region had a very slow progression increment with many below 20% as of 2014 . The possible reason could be a poor health care system in the central Africa region. For instance, a study from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya showed that health care indicators including user-fees, type of health facility, visit by a health care worker , adolescent reproductive health, regular availability of health care workers, and the number of professionals working on maternal health would highly valuable in the utilization of modern contraceptive use .
Living in an urban area was associated with a better modern contraceptive utilization compared with the rural counterparts. The possible reason could be women in rural areas had poor service availability and accessibility and they are far from the health facility . Besides, women in the rural area were more likely uneducated and they are unable to get the method of their choice.
In this study, maternal and husband education increases the uptake of modern contraceptives. This finding is in line with a systematic review and meta-analysis carried out in SSA countries between 2005 and 2015 . Similarly, trend analysis in contraceptive prevalence in SSA showed that women’s education was strongly correlated with the high level of contraceptive uptake . This could be due to the fact that education is the power and a precursor to developing women’s empowerment through improving their knowledge and attitude . Also, education creates a good job opportunity or employment that could cause child spacing  which further improves child survival . However, the former study revealed that the mere presence of female education was not adequate and it is highly recommended emphasizing the presence of voluntarily family planning services was strongly associated with an increase in the prevalence of contraceptive use.
Women’s health care decision-making autonomy was significantly affecting the odds of modern contraceptive uptake. Women who decide with their husbands had higher odds of modern contraceptive uptake than women who decide alone. This could be when women are unable to decide by themselves their rights and the ability to choose and use the method was worse. Empowering women would enhance women’s decision-making ability and increase their knowledge level that can further improve modern contraceptive uptake . As a result, the maternal health outcome and child health would be improved in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The odds of having modern contraceptive uptake were higher among women with a higher wealth index. This finding was supported by a cross-sectional study conducted in sub-Saharan African countries using Kenya and Zimbabwe demographic and health survey data . The possible explanation could be women from middle and high wealth index have better financial resources which are very helpful to get better access to reproductive health services including modern contraceptive uptake .
Mass media exposure was associated with higher odds of modern contraceptive uptake. This finding was supported by a systematic review and meta-analysis conducted among 31 sub-Saharan African countries using 47 demographic and health surveys conducted between 2005 and 2015 . The possible reason could be mass media exposure can expose people to information [40, 41] and overcome barriers of illiteracy and improve the knowledge and attitude of women .
The current study showed that mothers who had PNS services had higher odds of utilizing modern contraceptives. The possible reason could be during PNC follow-up mothers’ have the opportunity to communicate with providers and to receive counseling regarding on initiation of postpartum contraceptive services [42, 43]. Similarly, mothers’ who delivered at health institution has higher odds of uptake of modern contraceptive. This is because at the health institution mothers’ have the opportunity to get information on when and why they initiate postpartum contraception . Birth orders of two or more had higher odds of modern contraceptive intake than birth order one. This because women’s having more children had the intention to have birth spacing than women’s having a single child or fewer children.
The strength of the current study was incorporating 36 sub-Saharan Africa countries and the findings can be easily generalized to the SSA at large. However, it is difficult to establish a temporal relationship because of the cross-sectional nature of the study. Moreover, data related to the availability and accessibility of the service was not collected. Lastly, the study will be prone to recall and social desirability bias as most of the health measures in DHS are based on self-report.
The uptake of modern contraceptive utilization has a valuable contribution to the general public and the country at large. As a result, the public will be benefit by maintaining health promotion including reduction of poor maternal outcomes (maternal morbidity, mortality, and abortion) and in poverty mitigation, women empowerment, increased life expectancy, keeping gender equality, and realizing sustainable global development goals. Besides, child survival will be improved through birth spacing and has a great contribution in creating a better future for the coming generations.