Self-inject to prevent births
SELF-INJECTABLE contraceptives, being trialled in Uganda and Senegal, could revolutionise women's lives in rural Africa and dramatically cut maternal and newborn deaths.
The disposable US$1 (S$1.40) device consists of a small needle connected to a plastic bubble containing the contraceptive Depo-Provera, which can be squeezed to inject a dose that lasts three months.
Self-injectables could have a huge impact on women who cannot access clinics or face opposition to contraceptive use from their partners, said global health organisation Path which has designed the device called Sayana Press.
"This is a life-saver," Path's Emmanuel Mugisha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at Women Deliver, the world's biggest women's health and rights conference in a decade.
About a third of maternal deaths could be avoided by delaying motherhood, spacing births, preventing unintended pregnancies and avoiding unsafe abortions, said Path.
Unwanted pregnancies also cut short girls' education.
Mr Mugisha, Path's Uganda director, said women in rural areas could spend an entire day trekking to a clinic and queuing for contraceptives only to discover they were out of stock.
"Most men don't want family planning. Some want more children but others think it interferes with their sex life.
"With Sayana Press, a woman has the freedom to decide when she wants children... the man will not know, which is very good."
Mr Mugisha said self-injectable contraceptives would also reduce the high numbers of women dying during botched abortions in Uganda.
Some 225 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning, according to United Nations data.
If this need were met, unintended pregnancies would fall by 70 per cent, unsafe abortions by 74 per cent, maternal deaths by 25 per cent and newborn deaths by 18 per cent.
Trials with Sayana Press, which is made by Pfizer, are being carried out to ensure women can remember to take it, administer it correctly and dispose of the device safely.