The World Health Organization (WHO) released important updates to its landmark Family Planning Manual, which provides health workers and policymakers with the most up-to-date information on contraceptive options.
WHO released important updates
Building on lessons from recent outbreaks, this new edition details tangible steps for frontline health workers to protect access to family planning services during emergencies, such as expanded access to self-administered contraceptives and the use of digital technologies by part of the providers. It also expands counselling for women and youth at high risk of contracting HIV.
“Family planning promotes self-fulfilment, empowerment, as well as health and well-being, and reduces maternal and infant deaths through the prevention of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion,” said Dr. Pascale Allotey, Director of WHO Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
“This updated Family Planning Handbook is a vital resource that helps health workers support contraceptive users around the world to make informed decisions about the contraceptive options that are right for them.”
- Experience from recent outbreaks shows that family planning services can be severely compromised during emergencies.
- During the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, approximately 70% of countries reported disruptions to these vital services, heightening the risks of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- For the first time, the 2022 edition of the Manual includes a chapter dedicated to guiding family planning services for women and adolescents at high risk of contracting HIV, including people living in settings where there is a high prevalence of HIV, those who have multiple sexual partners or whose regular partner is living with HIV.
- Self-administered contraceptives include condoms, birth control pills, some diaphragms, spermicides, and more recently, the self-injection option of DMPA (a progestogen-only contraceptive), as it can now be safely administered under the skin rather than in the muscle.
- Many women prefer injectable contraceptives as they are private and non-intrusive, requiring action only every 2-3 months, and the option to self-inject is likely to further increase acceptance.
- Latest WHO guidance detection and treatment of cervical cancer and precancerous lesions, which can be provided through family planning services; management of sexually transmitted infections and family planning in postabortion care.
Family planning during epidemics
To help avoid such outcomes in the future, the manual details practical measures that support the continuity of family planning services during epidemics. These include broader access to self-administered contraceptives and direct distribution of contraceptives through pharmacies. Health professionals can also take steps to support continued access to contraceptives, even when physical mobility is reduced, such as providing multi-month supplies.
“The updated recommendations in this Manual show that almost any family planning method can be used safely by all women and that, consequently, all women should have access to a variety of options that meet their unique needs and goals in life,” said Dr. Mary Gaffield, scientist and lead author of the Manual. “Family planning services can be provided safely and affordably so that couples and individuals can choose between safe and effective methods of family planning no matter where they live.”
Risk of contracting HIV
While only condoms protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, all contraceptive options, with the sole exception of the spermicide nonoxynol-9, are now considered safe for women and young people at high risk of contracting HIV, it is That is, they have not been found to increase the risk of contracting HIV.
HIV transmission or acquisition of infection. For those at high risk of contracting HIV, the manual states that testing, counselling and first-line clinical care and referrals should be offered as part of family planning services
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