Contraceptive use increased in Kenya during COVID-19 pandemic period, survey reveals

Contraceptive use increased in Kenya during COVID-19 pandemic period, survey reveals

The use of modern methods of contraceptives increased from 56 to 61 per cent in 2020, an uptake that may have contributed to the decline in unintended pregnancy from 42 to 37 per cent in the same period, a new survey shows.

The survey released on Thursday collected information from more than 9,000 women. The responses from the women show that despite COVID-19 disrupting of health services, women still sought emergency contraception, condoms, pills, injections and implants to delay or space pregnancy.

The survey, conducted by Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA)— a consortium that generates surveys monitoring key health indicators in nine countries in Africa and Asia— indicates that public and private hospitals in the country continued to experience stockouts.

Majority of the hospitals (70 per cent) said they ordered the commodities but did not receive, which could be explained by an interruption in the supply chain.

Some (10 per cent) of the public hospitals reported that they experienced a dramatic increase in the demand for the family planning services. Generally, the report shows, Kenya meets 76 per cent of the demand for contraception by modern methods, a slight increase from 70 per cent in 2014, and 74 per cent in 2019.

The survey also shed light into family planning choices and marital status of women. Married women use modern contraceptives more than their unmarried counterparts, 58 per cent in 2019 and 62 per cent in 2020, as compared to 56 and 61 per cent in that very period for the latter group.

However, unmarried women prefer short acting methods like emergency contraception, while their married counterparts chose long-acting methods. The most popular method for the unmarried woman, the survey showed is, male condoms (29 per cent), the injectable and implants (both at 26 per cent).

The married woman on the other hand preferred injectable (39 per cent) and implants (37 per cent).

The lead researcher of the survey Prof Peter Gichangi from the International Centre for Reproductive HealthKenya (ICRH-K) said that the government of Kenya amidst COVID-19, put in measures that ensured continuity of Sexual and Reproductive Health service provision.

Prof Gichangi, who is also the Principal Investigator of PMA Kenya explained further: “we may never know how effective those interventions were, but data such as the one released today, makes a case for constantly collecting information, analysing and using it to inform how we respond to family planning needs.

Despite the willingness of women to plan and space childbirth, more than half (56 per cent) said they did not get “comprehensive information” when receiving the family planning services.

According to Mary Thiong’o, PMA Kenya Senior Technical Advisor at International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya (ICRH Kenya), such information includes possible side effects or problems, where to go if and when they experience them, other family planning methods available apart from the one they were getting and whether they could change.

“This can lead to women not being satisfied, which can contribute to method discontinuation and uniformed method switching. This therefore calls for strengthening the quality of care and counselling services by the service providers” said Ms Thiong’o.

The study comes out when health and development players had raised concerns about the rise in unintended pregnancies due to the lockdowns, curfews and disrupted health services caused by the pandemic.

Organisations such as the International Rescue Committee reported that the number of teenage pregnancies increased dramatically in regions of northern Kenya as a result of school closures and lockdowns in 2020.

Without data, it had been difficult to know how far the extent of the unintended pregnancies, and what intervention would work best.

Paul Nyachae, a public health specialist from Jhpiego, who is part of the PMA consortium, told reporters that when resources are scarce, data guides health departments to plan for the little that is available.

Health officials can also use data to make a case for more budgetary allocation from treasury.

“As in this case, data shows that 56 per cent of the women who visited health facilities said they did not get comprehensive information when receiving family planning services, then human and financial resources would be taken to capacity building for providers on how to relate to the clients or give them all the information about family planning which they would then give the client,” said Mr Nyachae.

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