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Women need more contraception options to stop unintended pregnancies, HIV and STIs

Approximately 80 million unintended pregnancies occur every year as a result of contraceptive failure and not using any form of contraception.

Image: pregnant woman via Shutterstock

WOMEN NEED MORE options when it comes to contraception.

Male and female condoms are currently the only method which prevents against unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.

Research which focuses on Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs) – which aim to improve the sexual and reproductive health of women worldwide – was published today.

It found that investments in improving women’s sexual and reproductive health has resulted in fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer maternal and newborn deaths and healthier mothers and children.

However, levels of unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remain high.

80 million unintended pregnancies 

The new supplement is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and CAMI Health.

It estimates that 80 million unintended pregnancies occur in the developing world every year because of contraceptive failure and not using any form of contraception.

These unintended pregnancies result in unplanned births, abortions and miscarriages.

The review also highlights that adolescents in the developing world are particularly vulnerable as approximately 14 million are giving birth each year.

Women under the age of 16 who give birth are more likely to experience premature labour, miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as death from pregnancy-related causes.

Doctor Marleen Temmerman, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organisation, said:

“Adolescent girls may seek to terminate their pregnancy following an unplanned pregnancy and may have an unsafe abortion posing a huge threat to their health.

The development of new technologies and better education and understanding of the options available will transform lives.

HIV

HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age. Approximately 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant each year.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of women living with HIV (among antenatal clients) ranges from 5% to 30%.

Pregnant women with HIV are the main cause of the infection among children- more than 90% of infant infections happen through mother-to-child transmission.

The paper also looks at other STIs and states that an estimated 500 million people globally acquire one of four curable STIs each year: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydial infection and trichomoniasis.

Lead author of the review paper, Heather Boonstra, said, “The evidence strongly indicates that providing women with effective new tools to simultaneously prevent unwanted pregnancy as well as STIs and HIV is essential.

However, just developing these methods is not enough. They need to be designed and marketed in a way that meets the needs and respects the rights of women and their partners.

“Ultimately, MPTs will only be viable options if women actually use them.”

Read: A second child “cured” of HIV has relapsed>

Read: Poverty, violence and myths about condoms: What’s spreading HIV?>

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