Tomorrow, September 26, is World Contraception Day. Launched in 2007 by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, WCD’s mission is to amplify awareness of contraception, enable youth to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and build a future where every pregnancy is wanted.
In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens gains in reproductive health care in Africa and all over the world, ensuring universal access to contraception has become an even more pressing issue. Due to lockdowns and other COVID-related disruptions to essential SRHR services, more than 47 million women could lose access to contraception, leading to an additional seven million unintended pregnancies. Many strides have been made in recent decades to expand individuals’ control over their SRHR. We have achieved some hard-won gains, but we must keep the momentum going.
The Guttmacher Institute’s 2019 study, World Contraception Day: Celebrating Progress and Maintaining Momentum, points to critical investments in research and development (R&D) that would positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world.
Every year in low- and middle-income countries, 111 million pregnancies, or 49% of the total, are unintended, and 218 million women of reproductive age (15–49) have an unmet need for modern contraception. R&D support for contraception could significantly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.
New developments in contraception would also certainly reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We can see this in action with the new dapivirine vaginal ring, which offers women a long-acting HIV prevention method to safeguard their health on their own terms. Having a greater number of prevention options would undoubtedly improve SRHR outcomes for women around the world.
How informed are you?
Do you know the full range of contraception options? Are you looking for something long- or short-term? Is your current method more or less reliable than others? Check out the handy chart below to read up on which method is right for you.
This World Contraception Day, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960. The UN estimates that 151 million women of reproductive age globally use the pill as their contraceptive method of choice. The pill is one of the most effective methods of contraception, with 91% efficacy.
For young people around the world, it can be difficult to speak with loved ones and health providers about your SRHR needs. At DSW, we advocate for youth-friendly health services and open communication about sexual activity. This makes it easier to avoid misinformation and myths about contraception.
Start here – read on to bust five myths about contraception wide open.
Myth 1: As a woman, I won’t get pregnant if I take a shower or bath, urinate, or douche right after sex.
Washing or urinating will not prevent fertilisation. After ejaculation, the sperm enters the cervix and is out of reach of any washing or douching solution. Additionally, douching is not recommended as it can disrupt the balance of the vagina’s natural bacteria, causing irritation or infection.
Myth 2: I can’t get pregnant if I have sex during my period.
Myths such as this often arise from a lack of understanding about the menstrual cycle. Many women believe that it is ‘safe’ (i.e., there is no risk of pregnancy) to have sex while on their period, or that there is a ‘safe’ period every month in which contraception is not needed. However, ovulation (when an egg is released) can take place earlier than expected. A delicate balance of hormones regulates ovulation and – if the released egg is not fertilized – menstruation. These hormones can be disrupted by various factors such as age, stress, and medications, making it difficult to pinpoint when ovulation will occur and thus predict ‘safe’ days. In addition, a sperm may live in a woman’s body for some days after sex, making it possible to conceive several days after having sex if ovulation occurs early.
Myth 3: I can only become pregnant while having sex in certain positions.
Many people believe that having sex in certain positions, such as standing up or with the woman on top, prevents the sperm from entering the cervix. However, positions during sex have no effect on whether fertilisation occurs.
Myth 4: Long-term use of contraception can make it harder to get pregnant later.
Fear not: for most methods of contraception, once women stop using them, their periods and fertility will soon return to normal (and what is ‘normal’ can differ from one woman to the next). However, please note that sterilization is intended to be permanent, and the contraception injection contains hormones that can take up to 12-18 months to leave your body and restore fertility. This is why the next and final myth is so crucial.
Myth 5: All methods of contraception are equally appropriate for all women.
It is best to carefully select a contraceptive that is right for your lifestyle and plans for the future. Consider questions such as: can you commit to taking the pill every day without fail? Do you plan on getting pregnant within the next two years? These are just two of many factors to consider when selecting a method of contraception.
You and your health care provider can narrow down your contraception options and determine what one is right for you. You can also visit Your Life to learn more about each contraceptive method.
At DSW, we want to ensure that every young person has the power to realise their own future. Family planning plays a major role in the ability of youths, particularly women and girls, to live self-determined lives, deciding for themselves when to have children, how many to have, and with whom.
Watch this space! Next week, we will be interviewing two of the main founders of World Contraception Day, Jan Kreutzberg, Executive Director of DSW, and Klaus Brill, Former Vice-President of Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, about what WCD means to them, 13 years after its historic launch.
Featured image by Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images.