Advancing contraceptive choices could reduce unwanted pregnancies

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New innovations in modern contraception could help countries reduce unintended pregnancies in Africa.

Speaking in reference to the Sayana Press, a new self-injectable contraceptive method, Dr. Emmanuel Mugisha, a reproductive health expert, said when a greater range of options are available, more women will use modern contraception.

This, he stressed, would make countries achieve their family planning goals, while at the same time realising the commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

“Data shows that when a new option is introduced, it tends to help increase the modern contraception rate and reduce unmet need,” he added.

“Reaching new users of family planning can help achieve FP2020 goals, and realize ICPD commitments. When the product is newly introduced, data from many countries, for example Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda, show that about one-third of doses are to first-time users of family planning,” he added.

Mugisha, the country director of Path Uganda, made the remarks while presenting a paper titled “advancing contraceptive options:  Innovations for sectoral and reproductive health.” This was during the 2019 Network of African Parliamentary Committees of Health meeting in Kampala.

He stated that recent evidence from Malawi, Senegal, and Uganda suggests that Sayana Press, a small and light device, enables significantly more women to continue using the method.  Sayana is prefilled and ready to inject.

“Most women like it because it is discreet. Her husband doesn’t have to know. It is easy to use. And it can be stored at home, which means that people don’t have to move long distances to health centers all the time,” said Mugisha.

In Uganda especially, the continuity was notable among women between the ages of 18 and 25, and at least 84% of women preferred Sayana over traditional injectable method.   It is projected that self-injection could prevent 11,000 additional pregnancies and save the country $1.1 million per year in health care costs. In Senegal, up to 1400 pregnancies could be prevented, and thus save the country $350,000 every year.

“Self-injection seems especially promising for younger women in our setting who face particular challenges to contraceptive continuation,” said Dr. Mugisha

Dr. Mugisha stressed that the self-administered contraception can be an essential part of a country’s family planning method-mix, providing women and adolescent girls access to a wider range of contraceptive options that work best for them.

“Self-injection presents alternatives to those women/girls who prefer injectables, facilitating their right to exercise choice in their reproductive health decision-making,” he said.

The World Health Organization released the first-ever guidelines on self-care interventions for health in June 2019, including emphasis on the importance of a self-administered injectable contraceptive option.

Sayana Press has been approved by regulatory authorities in 59 countries, including the European Union. Sayana Press can be purchased at US$0.85 per dose by qualified public-sector buyers, such as ministries of health in FP2020 countries and UNFPA, Dr. Mugisha stated.

As of July 2019, there were 314 million total users of modern methods in the 69 FP2020 focus countries. As a result, 119 million unintended pregnancies, 21 million unsafe abortions and 134,000 maternal deaths were prevented in the last year alone, due to the robust uptake of modern contraceptives.

Compiled by Carol Natukunda

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