Women Can Give Themselves Injectable Contraception, WHO Advises

ContraceptionIn the aftermath of massive pandemic-related disruptions to family planning services, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that women can be taught to give themselves contraceptive injections.

This is one of the practical measures to ensure the continuity of family planning services during epidemics that is contained in the WHO’s updated family planning handbook, which was launched at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP 2022) in Thailand on Tuesday.

The world’s population reached eight billion by Tuesday, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kenam told the opening of the ICFP conference on Monday that  “eight billion is a success story. It’s a story of people living longer and healthier lives, a story of more resilient and effective healthcare systems, of more women and babies surviving childbirth”.

Pandemic disruptions

But during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, “approximately 70% of countries reported disruptions to these vital services, intensifying risks of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” according to the WHO.

Its handbook details practical measures to support family planning services during epidemics,  including “wider access to self-administered contraceptives, and direct distribution of contraceptives through pharmacies”.

A progestin-only contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate  (DMPA), can now be safely injected just under the skin rather than into the muscle making it easier to self-administer, according to the WHO. 

Many women prefer injectable contraceptives as they are private and non-intrusive and last for two to three months.

“The updated recommendations in this handbook show that almost any family planning method can be used safely by all women and that accordingly, all women should have access to a range of options that meet their unique needs and goals in life,” said Dr Mary Gaffield, scientist and lead author of the handbook. 

“Family planning services can be provided safely and affordably so that no matter where they live, couples and individuals are able to choose from safe and effective family planning methods.”

In a video message to the IFPC opening, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyusus said that “quality family planning and reproductive health and rights are essential components of universal health coverage and primary health care”.

“Family planning is also key to meeting development aims including education, food security, economic prosperity, and even climate change. WHO is working around the world to support countries with family planning programmes, including supporting 96 countries to update their national clinical practice guidelines,” he added.

For the first time, the 2022 edition of the handbook includes a dedicated chapter to guide family planning services for women and adolescents at high risk of HIV, including people living where there is high HIV prevalence, have multiple sexual partners, or whose regular partner is living with HIV.

It also incorporates the latest WHO guidance on cervical cancer and pre-cancer prevention, screening and treatment, which can all be provided through family planning services; management of sexually transmitted infections, and family planning in post-abortion care.

Now in its fourth edition, WHO’s Family Planning Handbook is the most widely used reference guide on the topic globally, with over a million copies distributed or downloaded to date. It is complemented by the medical eligibility criteria tool for contraceptive use, also downloadable as a dedicated App.

Image Credits: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/ Unsplash.

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