While HIV and unintended pregnancies are both occupational risks faced by female sex workers, the epidemiology of pregnancy and its drivers in this population remains understudied. This includes Cambodia, where the drivers of pregnancy among female entertainment and sex workers (FESW) remain unknown. The current study aimed to examine factors associated with incident pregnancy, as well as describe contraceptive use among FESW in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
This analysis drew from the Young Women’s Health Study (YWHS)-2, a 12-month observational cohort of 220 FESW aged 15–29 years, conducted between August 2009 and August 2010. Interviewer-administered questionnaires were conducted at baseline and quarterly thereafter, alongside HIV and pregnancy testing. Bivariate and multivariable extended Cox regression analysis was used to examine correlates of incident pregnancy.
At baseline, 6.8% of participants were pregnant, and only 10.8% reported using hormonal contraceptives, with 11.3% reporting an abortion in the past 3 months. Pregnancy incidence was high, at 22/100 person-years (95% CI: 16.3–30.1). In multivariable analysis, younger age (19–24 years versus 25–29 years) (Adjusted Hazards Ratio (AHR): 2.28; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.22–4.27), lower income (400,000–600,000 Riel (≤150$USD) versus > 600,000 Riel (> 150$USD)) (AHR 2.63; 95% CI 1.02–6.77) positively predicted pregnancy, while higher self-reported condom self-efficacy were associated with reduced pregnancy incidence (AHR 0.89; 95% CI 0.81–0.98).
Results document high incidence of pregnancy and unmet reproductive health needs among FESWs in Cambodia. Findings point to an urgent need for multi-level interventions, including venue-based HIV/STI and violence prevention interventions, in the context of legal and policy reform. High pregnancy incidence in this population may also undermine recruitment and retention into HIV prevention intervention trials. The exploration of innovative and comprehensive sex worker-tailored sexual and reproductive health service models, also as part of HIV prevention intervention trials, is warranted.