World Population Day 2018 highlights ineffective and unsafe pregnancy prevention behaviors and practices. What about emergency contraception?

By Melissa Garcia

Melissa Garcia is a Technical Advisor for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, hosted by MSH. This article originally appeared on the ICEC website

For this year’s World Population Day on 11 July, our community celebrated and affirmed the right to family planning. On this day, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also called attention to the many people around the world unable to realize this right.

The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis , Adding it Up, estimates that globally, 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception. One hundred and fifty five million women are not using a contraceptive method. Some 59 million women use traditional practices and remedies for pregnancy prevention. UNFPA has listed some of these practices in this article and accompanying photo essay. They are cause for concern because the users of such “pseudo” contraceptive practices act in the belief that they are protecting themselves from the risk of unintended pregnancy. But in fact they are exposing themselves to that risk, and potentially to further health consequences.

This phenomenon affects emergency contraception (EC) as well. The majority of women are not aware that a contraceptive option after sex exists, in most countries that capture EC knowledge in their most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data.  Most women have never heard of the dedicated, safe and effective pill, and copper- IUD regimens that are the only effective post-coital method. Continue reading “World Population Day 2018 highlights ineffective and unsafe pregnancy prevention behaviors and practices. What about emergency contraception?”

Recent Provider Training and Client Counseling Tools on Emergency Contraception

By Melissa Garcia

Melissa Garcia is the technical advisor for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), which is hosted by MSH. This article originally appeared on the ICEC website

Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are an important part of the family planning method mix and for post-rape care, being the only effective way to reduce the risk of pregnancy after sex, whether unprotected, insufficiently protected or coerced.

At the global level, women have low levels of awareness of ECPs as a contraceptive option. This could be due in part that ECPs are not consistently included in contraceptive counselling, and/or because the right tools and information are lacking to dispel myths and misinformation. As ICEC’s mission is to ensure the safe and locally-appropriate use of EC in all reproductive health programming, we have made recent investments to support the global health care workforce by improving provider training and client counselling and awareness of ECPs at global, regional and national levels. In partnership with several other organisations, materials were created to provide up-to-date guidance on EC. While the focus is on levonorgestrel (LNG) ECPs–the most commonly available type of EC globally–select resources provide detail on the expanded post-coital contraceptive method mix.

ICEC has provided technical review to several global-level provider training materials, including EC training modules on FPTraining.org for providers (in English and in French) and for pharmacists (in English and in French). The latest edition of Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers has updated guidance as well; see the EC chapter here. Continue reading “Recent Provider Training and Client Counseling Tools on Emergency Contraception”

Top tips for advocates working on emergency contraception

By Melissa Garcia and Cristina Puig Borrás

Melissa Garcia is Technical Adviser for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), hosted by MSH. Cristina Puig Borrás is the Coordinator for the European Consortium for Emergency Contraception. This article orginally appeared on ICEC’s website

Photo: Susana Galdos/MSH

With the current largest generation of young people, there is much to celebrate on August 12, International Youth Day. In particular, there is the growing recognition that as agents of change, adolescents and young people and their organisations are essential stakeholders who contribute to inclusive, just, sustainable and peaceful societies. Crucially, advocates working on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and reproductive rights (RR) advance access for young people in meaningful ways. Continue reading “Top tips for advocates working on emergency contraception”

An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception

By Elizabeth Westley

Elizabeth Westley is the director of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, where this article first appeared. 

To meet the global Family Planning 2020 goals, a full range of family planning methods must be available, including user-controlled, short-acting methods. The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis , Adding it Up, estimates that 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive method.  Half of unmarried women with an unmet need for family planning report infrequent sex as the reason that they do not use a family planning method. A quarter of married women not using contraception fall into the same category.  Not feeling themselves at high levels of risk, these women may wish to avoid the appointments and waiting times, dependence on providers, side effects, discomforts, and other commitments that long-acting contraceptive methods sometimes entail. Other women may not be using modern contraception because they are unaware of their options or are faced with inaccessibility due to distance barriers, poor health infrastructures, stock outs, or high prices. As well, many women are located in humanitarian and fragile settings where contraceptive access can be challenging.  For many women and girls not currently using a long-acting contraceptive method, a simple, discreet, user-controlled, low-commitment, one-time “on demand” form of contraception that can be accessed easily and quickly is a critically important option. This method already exists: emergency contraception. Continue reading “An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception”

Emergency contraception is a simple part of post-rape care: Why is it not routinely provided?

By Melissa Garcia and Sarah Rich

Melissa Garcia is Senior Technical Officer for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and Sarah Rich is Senior Program Officer at Women’s Refugee Commission. This post originally appeared on the blog for the Sexual Violence Research Initiative

Emergency contraception (EC) can reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex, including in cases of sexual violence. Global guidance is clear that EC should be offered to women and girls within 120 hours of sexual violence to prevent the traumatic consequences of pregnancy resulting from rape.

Yet women and girls who have experienced unprotected sex, including through sexual violence, do not routinely have access to EC. The global aid communities must work together to increase access to EC for sexual violence survivors around the world, including for women and girls who are the most marginalized, like those living in crisis-affected settings. A range of strategies can be implemented to improve access to EC. Further research is also needed to identify, evaluate, and invest in new and innovative solutions. Continue reading “Emergency contraception is a simple part of post-rape care: Why is it not routinely provided?”

Emergency contraception: The reproductive health innovation everyone should know about

By Elizabeth Westley and Monica Kerrigan

Elizabeth Westley leads the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception. Monica Kerrigan is a global leader in family planning and previously served at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as a senior adviser to Family Planning 2020.

This article originally appeared on Devex.

Unintended pregnancies take a harrowing toll on women, young people, families and nations. When women are unable to decide whether and when to have children, maternal and newborn deaths rise, educational and economic opportunities are lost, families, communities and countries suffer greatly.

Global data highlights the tremendous challenge we face: 213 million pregnancies occur annually and an astonishing 40 percent — about 85 million — of these are unintended. In the United States alone, there are approximately 3 million unintended pregnancies each year, and in India, a staggering 18 million. A woman’s ability to make informed decisions about her reproductive health is one of the most basic human rights. It is a decision that can determine what kind of future she will have — and whether she will have one at all.

Emergency contraception is a unique tool for women to space and time their pregnancies. It is grossly underutilized, underfunded, and not fully optimized globally. It is the only contraceptive method that can be taken after unprotected sex and is effective for several days to prevent pregnancy. It is especially needed by women who have been sexually assaulted, who are often desperate to avoid becoming pregnant by their rapist. Continue reading “Emergency contraception: The reproductive health innovation everyone should know about”

A script-writer walks into a pharmacy…

By Melissa Garcia and Elizabeth Westley

Melissa Garcia is senior technical officer and Elizabeth Westley is the director of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), hosted by Management Sciences for Health.

“What happened when you went to the pharmacy and asked for emergency contraception?” Melissa surveyed a room full of television and radio writers attending a workshop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The participants looked around, waiting for someone to speak up first.

“The pharmacist gave me a look, so I had to show him my PMC badge to prove I was there for research, not for myself!” said a woman from Population Media Center, an organization that produces educational soap operas to improve the health and well-being of people around the world. Writers in Nigeria had similar stories to tell. An older man in flowing traditional robes confessed “I walked up and down the street three times before I summoned the courage to enter the store.” A young family planning (FP) advocate joined the media training in Senegal, and wearing her hijab, reported that the pharmacist demanded to know who the pill was meant for.

Melissa visits actors and writers on the set of C'est la vie in Senegal.
Melissa visits actors and writers on the set of C’est la vie in Senegal.

Continue reading “A script-writer walks into a pharmacy…”

Preventing pregnancy after sexual assault: Do women and girls have access to emergency contraception?

Sarah Rich is Senior Technical Advisor at the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, hosted by Management Sciences for Health.

Mapingure was raped and sought EC at a hospital. The provider told her that she needed a police report. But by the time she came back… she was told it was too late to assist her. She became pregnant as a result of the rape.

–Zimbabwe case from 2014, presented by Godfrey Dalitso Kangaude in “Country overviews of legal grounds/policies related to health, rape, and safe abortion,” April 2016

Emergency contraception (EC) can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, including in cases of rape. Global guidance on EC access for sexual assault survivors is clear: EC should be offered to women and girls within 120 hours of the assault to prevent the traumatic consequences of pregnancy resulting from rape. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) clinical and policy guidelines for sexual assault and clinical handbook  include strong recommendations to provide EC as part of comprehensive, woman-centered care. Continue reading “Preventing pregnancy after sexual assault: Do women and girls have access to emergency contraception?”

EML Search: New resource for reproductive and maternal health advocates

Shafia Rashid is Senior Technical Advisor at the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health.

In June 2013, Imtiaz Kamal–a crusader for midwifery and women’s health–celebrated Pakistan’s official recognition of the essential maternal health medicine, misoprostol, which has proven easy to administer, safe and effective for preventing and treating excessive postpartum bleeding. “Given the high prevalence of home births,” Imtiaz explained, “we need to invest in solutions, such as misoprostol, that save lives now, until we can achieve the long-term goals of strengthening health systems and increasing rates of facility births.” Continue reading “EML Search: New resource for reproductive and maternal health advocates”

A new chapter for FCI’s lifesaving mission!

Amy Boldosser-Boesch is the Senior Technical Director for the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health (MSH). To receive updates in your inbox from the FCI Program and other MSH programs, please subscribe here.

Photo: Catherine Lalonde
Photo: Catherine Lalonde

A lot has happened since we first announced, a couple of months ago, the exciting news that a new chapter has begun for FCI’s mission to save women’s lives!

Now a part of Management Sciences for Health, the FCI Program of MSH has hit the ground running. Continue reading “A new chapter for FCI’s lifesaving mission!”