Contraception services for 12 million women, globally, disrupted by pandemic
What you need to know:
- An estimated 12 million women worldwide, have experienced disruptions in their family planning services due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- UNFPA’s projections looked at contraceptive service disruptions in 115 lower and middle income countries from over the previous year.
An estimated 12 million women worldwide, have experienced disruptions in their family planning services due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has led to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies, new estimates released by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Avenir Health, show.
The projections, which take into consideration real world observations and data, were announced recently, one year since Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
UNFPA’s projections looked at contraceptive service disruptions in 115 lower and middle income countries from over the previous year.
The findings demonstrate how the pandemic has impacted women’s control over their reproductive health and undermined family planning.
“The results have been life-changing for many women,” the UN sexual and reproductive health agency said in its projections.
Data from UNFPA and partner surveys as well as Google Mobility data, found that access to family planning was widely disrupted by factors including travel restrictions, interrupted supply chains, stock-outs and overwhelmed health facilities.
“Unintended pregnancies put a great strain on families that are already struggling under pandemic-related financial burdens,” the UN agency added.
The consequences of rising unintended pregnancy the UN agency added, are not simply economic but are also linked to increased maternal morbidity and mortality, as well as rising numbers of unsafe abortions.
UNFPA projects that family planning service disruptions were largely concentrated in April and May of last year, with an average of disruption duration of three and a half months.
At the start of the pandemic last year, UNFPA, Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University and Victoria University modelled the potential impact of the pandemic on family planning services.
They found that six months of severe health system disruptions in 114 low and middle income countries could lead to 47 million women in low and middle income countries, being unable to access contraceptives. This would lead to seven million unplanned pregnancies.
The agency, however, pointed out that despite rising costs and supply chain constraints, it was able to procure and deliver contraceptives and other reproductive health supplies, as well as personal protective equipment for health workers.
Other creative efforts including use of a ride-hailing app to deliver contraceptives, SMS outreach and targeting family planning counselling to quarantine centres also helped maintain and restore services.
UNFPA noted that many women continue to face obstacles to receiving family planning and other life-saving reproductive health services during the Covid-19 period.
According to Health Action International, the pandemic has only exacerbated poor access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Commodities in sub-Saharan Africa leading to disastrous consequences.
In April last year, Kenya’s acting Director General for Health Dr Patrick Amoth issued guidelines for the continuity of reproductive, maternal, new-born and family planning care services in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Amoth noted that Kenya has made significant gains in reducing unmet need for contraception as well as expanding access to a variety of contraceptive methods.
Access to HIV drugs by women and girls living with the virus and to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for female sex workers have also been compromised by the pandemic.