A snapshot in time during COVID-19

May 8, 2020. Last April, the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and the European Network of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, issued Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. The joint report looks at the pandemic’s impact on access to essential SRHR services, and includes recommendations for decision-makers.

With regards to contraception, and among others, the report recommends governments:

  • to adapt their policies, technical guidance and service-delivery models to guarantee access to SRHR during the crisis, by allowing (among others): telemedicine for SRHR consultations and access to contraception (particularly emergency contraception) without prescription; and removing medically unnecessary administrative obstacles.
  • to address immediate needs for reproductive health  commodities and personal protective equipment (PPE) and, in the medium term, engage with UNFPA, RHSC, manufacturers and other global organisations to exchange information on supply chains, manufacturing and transportation so as to anticipate any potential future stock outs.

Downloaded the full document here.

The report is based on surveys conducted from mid-March to mid-April 2020. The authors acknowledge that the situation is dynamic and rapidly changing, and that some situations described in the report may have evolved since it was written, particularly in relation to government reactions.

Council of Europe: ensure women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

May 7, 2020. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights published today a statement calling for the protection of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights during the pandemic. Among others, the statement calls upon member states to consider access to abortion care, contraception, including emergency contraception, and maternal healthcare, as essential health care services to be maintained during the crisis and take all necessary accompanying measures.

In words of the Commissioner, Dunja Mijatović“we should see this crisis as a magnifying glass on the persisting violence against women, gender inequalities and barriers in women’s access to sexual and reproductive health care. Measures taken to remove these barriers should be sustained after the crisis as key elements of building a long-lasting transformative equality that will benefit women and society as a whole.”

The full statement can be found here.

 

FIGO recommends promoting and suppling emergency contraception, during the COVID-19 pandemic

May 2020. Last April, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) issued a statement pointing at key action points to ensure access to contraception services and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contraception services and supplies are core components of essential health services and access to these is a fundamental human right.

The key action points include:

  • Expanding postpartum family planning services
  • Pro-actively promoting and supplying self-care contraception methods, including emergency contraception
  • Lifting those barriers that difficult access to contraception
  • Improving contraception information and access through telemedicine (mobile phones and social media)
  • Addressing with due anticipation, the upcoming challenges in supply chains.
  • Providing adequate Personal Protection Equipment for all health care workers.

The FIGO statement on Family Planning Services during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here, as is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

The latest edition of the FIGO and ICEC guidance on EC pills (December 2018), sums up the most recent evidence and recommendations for UPA and LNG EC pills use, and is available on our website.

 

Contraception and COVID-19: recommendations from WHO

April 14, 2020. The World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes Contraception/Family planning and COVID-19, a Questions and Answers (Q&A) document that provides short and to the point responses regarding contraception accessibility and use in the current times.

Use of emergency contraception (EC), and other self-care methods, is proposed if access to regular methods is disrupted. The document reminds us that EC pills “can prevent up to 95% of pregnancies when taken within 5 days after intercourse, and they can be taken by anyone with or without a health condition”. It also suggests policy makers to “ensure access to emergency post-coital contraception, including consideration of over the counter provision.”

Access the full document here.

Guides for SRH services during COVID-19

April 7, 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting more and more countries all over the planet, national contraception societies are developing guides to help ensure access to high quality sexual and reproductive health services that are safe for both users and providers during these times, and that help alleviate the current burden on the health systems. We are pleased to share resources in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, which also include measures to ensure timely access to emergency contraception:

 

ESC and FIAPAC 2020 congresses postponed

March 22, 2020. The Executive Committee and Secretariat of the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) announced this past week that, in order to safeguard against COVID-19 and the spread of the coronavirus, the 16th Congress of the ESC (Dublin May 13th-15th 2020) has been postponed until further notice.  See https://escrh.eu/event/16th-esc-congress/ for further information. 

Likewise, and for the same reasons, the International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates (FIAPAC) also had to cancel its upcoming 14th Conference, due to take place in Berlin in October 1-3, 2020.

 

New resources in Spanish 

March 2020. Two recent publications provide good up-dates on emergency contraception (and other methods) in Spanish: 

Valuable resources for practitioners, advocates and anyone interested in learning more about postcoital contraception.

 

Belgium: reducing financial barriers to EC pills and other contraceptives

February 2020. On February 21st, the Council of Ministers of the Belgium Federal Government, approved the Royal Decree that will make emergency contraception (EC) pills free of charge to all women, regardless of age. Until now, EC pills could be provided free of charge to women under 21. In addition, under this new policy, regular contraception pills will also be made available free of cost to women up to 25 years of age (until now, this cover women until age 20). These measures are expected to cost the Federal Government over 6 million euros annually, and to entry into force by April 1st.

In the past few years, Belgium has intensified efforts to make contraception information and methods more accessible: new reimbursement schemes (also for long-term contraception); special arrangements for young people; and government supported websites such as zanzu.be and allesoverseks.be. This won Belgium the first position in the Contraception Atlas of 2019, along with France.

Switching EC to non-prescription status and unwanted pregnancy

January 2020. The paper Switching emergency contraceptives to non-prescription status and unwanted pregnancy among adult and teenage women: A long-term European comparative study was published in the South Eastern European Journal of Public Health and is available as open access.

This study’s assessed abortion/birth rates among adult and teenage women in Europe before and after the switch of EC to non-prescription status. Findings suggest, among others, that the switch contributed to reduce abortion and live birth rates among teenagers.

 Click here to read the paper. 

 

Council of Europe calls for promoting access to contraception

January 2020. A draft resolution calling for greater access to contraceptives, including emergency contraception, was adopted by the Equality Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last December.

The resolution highlights the key role contraception plays for women’s empowerment, and calls on member and observer states to ensure access to contraception by ensuring, among others, the following measures (see section 9.2):

  • provision in the public sector;
  • inclusion in public health insurance schemes,
  • subsidisation schemes for vulnerable groups, including youth
  • counselling services that enable choice
  • mandatory training for health care professionals
  • development of evidence-based guidelines, based on WHO standards

Read more on the Committee’s website and download the report here.