Lack of contraception and family planning services is a serious challenge for women in developing countries around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million women in the Global South would like to access contraception, but are currently unable. In 2012 alone, this led to almost 80 million unplanned pregnancies, with about 25% of women resorting to unsafe abortions. In Africa, although contraceptive use has doubled in the past 20 years, still less than 20% of women have access to modern contraceptives. Without the ability to choose when and how many children they have, many women experience health risks and lost opportunities to participate in their local society and economy.
Earlier this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation teamed up to bring an innovative contraceptive to women in developing countries around the world. This collaboration between public and private sector organizations aims to help women around the world, including remote areas, plan a future for themselves and their families. The contraceptive, called the Sayana Press, is an injection similar to the Depo-Provera shot, but is packaged to make it easier to use in a wide range of settings. It includes a single-use, prefilled device with a short needle attached. To administer the contraceptive, a health worker injects the needle into the arm and simply squeezes the bubble on the device. The injection lasts for three months and costs only $1 per unit. The Sayana Press is based on a design that was first used to give Hepatitis B injections in Indonesia, and was pilot tested for contraceptive use in Burkina Faso.
Since the device is prefilled, there is little worry for spillages or dosing errors, and because it cannot be reused, there is little risk of infection. The relative simplicity of the design means that health workers can be trained quickly, and the smaller needle has resulted in patients reporting less pain at the injection site. Due to its ease of use, the device can also be used at locations outside of health clinics, meaning women from remote and rural areas do not have to travel to a medical center as often. Contraceptives like this give more women the opportunity to plan their families, and studies show that access to family planning measures means women are more likely to survive childbirth, have healthier babies, and prepare better for the health and well-being of their entire family.
Family planning is shown to lower health risks for women and children, empower women and girls, and improve their education as well. When women are able to make informed choices about pregnancy and contraception, they gain greater opportunity for education and for participating fully in society. Other benefits of family planning include lowering the amount of babies born infected with HIV/AIDS, reducing adolescent pregnancies, and reducing infant mortality. Thanks to a recent agreement between the initiative’s partners, the Sayana Press will soon be available to an even larger amount of women in 69 of the world’s poorest countries. As the Sayana Press becomes available to women all over Africa, Asia, and Latin America, its creators hope that the easy-to-administer device will mean that women can someday even use it themselves at home.