Women can give themselves injectable contraceptives, WHO advises

contraceptionAfter massive pandemic-related disruptions to family planning services, the World Health Organization (WHO) says women can be taught to give themselves contraceptive shots.

This is one of the practical measures to ensure continuity of family planning services during epidemics included in the updated WHO reports Family Planning Manualwhich was presented on Tuesday at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP 2022) in Thailand.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world population hit eight billion on Tuesday.

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kenam, opening the ICFP conference on Monday, said 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 more babies surviving childbirth.”

Pandemic Disorders

But in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, “about 70% of countries reported disruptions to these essential services, which increases the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” according to the WHO.

The handbook describes 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), according to the WHO, can now be safely injected just under the skin rather than into the muscle, making self-administration easier.

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

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

“Family planning services can be provided safely and inexpensively, so couples and individuals, wherever they live, can choose from safe and effective family planning methods.”

In a video message at the IFPC opening, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyusus 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 achieving development goals such as education, food security, economic prosperity and even climate change. WHO is working worldwide to support countries with family planning programs, including helping 96 countries 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 youth at high risk of HIV, including people who live in an area with high HIV prevalence, have multiple sexual partners, or are a regular partner in this life with HIV.

It also contains the latest WHO guidelines on cervical cancer and precancerous lesions Prevention, screening and treatmentall of which can be provided through family planning services; management of sexually transmitted infections and Family planning in aftercare.

The WHO Family Planning Manual, now in its fourth edition, is the most widely used reference work on the subject worldwide, with over a million copies distributed or downloaded. It is supplemented by the tool on the medical suitability criteria for the use of contraceptives, which is also available for download dedicated app.

Photo credit: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash.

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