The dominant conceptual framework for understanding reproductive behaviour is highly individualistic. In this article, it is demonstrated that such a conceptualization is flawed, as behaviour is shaped by social relations and institutions. Using ethnographic evidence, the value of a social analysis of the local contexts of reproductive health is highlighted. A framework is set out for conducting such a social analysis, which is capable of generating data necessary to allow health programmes to assess the appropriate means of improving the responsiveness of service-delivery structures to the needs of the most vulnerable. Six key issues are identified in the framework for the analysis of social vulnerability to poor reproductive health outcomes. The key issues are: poverty and livelihood strategies, gender, health-seeking behaviour, reproductive behaviour, and access to services. The article concludes by briefly identifying the key interventions and strategies indicated by such an analysis.