ZIMBABWEAN women will now have access to a new contraceptive — the Sayana Press — a modern and long lasting but reversible injectable as an additional birth control option.
Before the introduction of the Sayana Press women could choose from pills, female or male condoms, implants, injectable (Depo Provera), vasectomy and tubal ligation.
The Sayana Press was piloted in 2020 and its roll out started last month in Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Mashonaland East provinces.
Its roll out brings to two the number of readily available pregnancy prevention methods in Zimbabwe that contain the medicine Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA).
The other one is Depo Provera sometimes referred to as Protogen.
The two are administered every three months but the difference is that Depo Provera is injected into the muscle of the upper arm or the buttock, while Sayana Press injection is given into the fatty tissue of the thigh, back of the upper arm or abdomen.
Sayana Press has an added advantage that if the client is comfortable, she can inject herself if given the authority and education to do so.
The progestin in Sayana Press keeps a woman’s eggs from leaving the ovaries. It also makes the mucus at the cervix thicker and this keeps sperm from passing through the cervix and fertilising the egg.
Progestin also keeps the lining of the uterus from growing thick, which makes it difficult for a fertilised egg to grow there.
The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council says most women can use Sayana Press although it comes with low sex drive, abdominal bloating, changes in bleeding, headaches and weight gain as side effects.
Sayana is distributed with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Department for International Development (DIFD) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Zimbabwe’s Contraceptive Prevalence rate (CPR), that is the proportion of women aged 15-49 using family planning, is 67 percent, an improvement from 59 percent in 2010. This is one of the highest on the continent. Despite this significant progress in the provision of Family Planning for women and girls, the raging Covid-19 pandemic is adversely impacting the accessibility and availability of the FP services,” read the ZNFPC statement.
“Although most women can use Sayana Press, those who have or had the migraine headaches, stroke, hypertension and serious liver condition should consult their health service provider for advice.”
The outbreak of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe last year disrupted access to contraception in Zimbabwe leaving many women at risk of unwanted pregnancies.
Nearly 5 000 Zimbabwean teenage girls got pregnant while close to 2 000 were married off in the first two months of the year.
Unwanted pregnancies which often lead to unsafe abortions and maternal deaths are a likely result of the disrupted services while many women and girls find themselves at risk of gender-based violence (GBV) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
For young girls, unwanted pregnancy severely curtails girls and young women’s opportunities and hinders their ability to reach their full potential.
For gender activist Ms Lindile Ndebele, lack of access to contraception strips women of their dignity.
She said access to contraception including the new one was necessary to ensure people do not suffer consequences that come with unwanted pregnancies.
“Once there is no contraception you are actually stripping women of their dignity because once a woman has more children which she cannot care for, her whole life becomes a mess.
“The pressure of taking care of an extra mouth may expose women to stress and even GBV especially if the partner does not want another child,” said Ms Ndebele.
She said more children also put a strain on the national budget hence the need to ensure women always have contraception all the time no matter what.
“If half of those women who failed to get contraception in Zimbabwe and even in the world have babies, that will put pressure on the national budget, health care systems. Many children also expose women to GBV as well hence we need to prioritise women’s reproductive health rights,” she added.