Awareness on contraception to curb teen pregnancies: survey

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MANILA – A survey showed that only 13 percent of 500 young women in the Philippines have knowledge of emergency contraceptive (EC) pills or the Yuzpe method which has an 88 percent efficacy rate if taken within 72 hours after conception.

DKT Philippines Foundation, a leader for health market innovations, shared this information from their commissioned study on Wednesday.

“These pills fill a need when sex is infrequent or unexpected, which is often the case for people just entering their sexually active years,” Foundation Chairman Hyam Bolande mentioned during a virtual forum.

“EC pills can provide the last line of safe defense against unwanted pregnancy when the male partner doesn’t use a condom,” he added.

Though teenage pregnancy has been a long-time problem in the Philippines, the government has recently raised the alarm for better methods to lower the case as the numbers continue to rise even with efforts.

In June, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the prevention of teen pregnancies a “national priority” in Executive Order 141 which called for measures to address the problem, including strengthening sexual education so that adolescents can make more informed decisions.

Births to teen mothers soared to the equivalent of 495 per day in 2019. Teenage pregnancy affects nearly 6% of Filipino girls, which is the second-highest rate in southeast Asia, based on Save the Children's 2019 Global Childhood Report.

Lack of awareness on Yuzpe method

DKT Philippines Foundation said the lack of awareness on the emergency contraceptive pills (also referred to as the “morning-after pills” method holds back the country to combat the rising adolescent pregnancy rates.

The study also revealed that there are only one of four unmarried women aged 18 to 29 who are sexually active who aware that it is possible to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse with contraceptive pills.

More than two in three said they had unprotected sex before.

The same proportion 68 percent reported having experienced “pregnancy scares” before, with the number of such scares averaging 2.7. In addition, 94 percent of this group of women also reported suffering negative emotional states after unprotected sex, such as fear of pregnancy, anxiety, guilt, and sadness.

In a follow-up online survey conducted by the foundation, nearly one-third or 32 percent of Filipino doctors and midwives active in family planning said they were not aware of the Yuzpe method.

In that same informal survey in October, however, 85 percent of the healthcare providers reported they had patient inquiries about emergency contraception.

First introduced in the United Kingdom in 1984, emergency contraceptive pills have emerged as one of the world’s principal family-planning methods and are now approved for use in 149 countries.

The Yuzpe method can prevent pregnancy as long as these are taken 72-120 hours after unprotected intercourse, depending on the type. They are most effective, studies show if taken quickly after.

The foundation also shared that a dedicated EC pill, Postinor, was registered for importation and sale in the Philippines, but in 2001, the Bureau of Food and Drugs reversed course and canceled its approval, saying that the drug had an “abortifacient effect.”

Medical researchers worldwide have concluded by consensus that EC is contraception, not abortion, however, and no significant debate on the question exists in the global field of obstetric science.

“Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation and they do not induce an abortion,” the World Health Organization (WHO) Fact Sheet on the topic states.

Repeated scientific studies have shown that human conception, the starting point of pregnancy, occurs five to ten days after unprotected intercourse. Even if mistakenly taken too late, EC pills cannot harm a fetus or end a pregnancy, the group’s chief explained.

In addition, WHO guidelines stated that there are no age limits for use of EC, and any woman or girl of reproductive age may use the method safely.

“To prevent pregnancy following unprotected intercourse -- which may result from sexual abuse, intoxication, or even a broken condom -- doctors may under Philippine Department of Health guidelines prescribe the so-called Yuzpe Method, an enlarged dose of combined oral contraceptive pills,” Bolande advised. (PNA)

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