A new contraceptive method that costs just $1 means women all over the world now have more options in planning the number and spacing of their children. Under a new agreement between the Gates Foundation, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, women in 69 of the poorest countries across the globe will have access to the new injectable method, a thin needle attached to a squeezable plastic bubble full of the drug. The actual contraceptive drug is a lower dose of Depo-Provera, a common birth control method, and the delivery system, called Uniject, has also been used for immunizations.
It's virtually fool-proof — the dosage is preset and there's no need to fill a syringe, meaning dosing errors are eliminated, and the device cannot be reused, cutting down the risk of infection from needle-sharing. It's an easy tool for health workers to use. And while some other contraceptive injections go into a patient's leg or bottom, this one goes into the arm, which makes many women who are concerned about modesty and hesitant to lift their dresses for health care workers more likely to use it. Once injected, women are protected from unintended pregnancy for three months.
Around the world, there are222 million women who want to plan their families but don't have access to contraception. Nearly three-quarters of women who want contraception but don't currently have access to it are in the 69 countries targeted by this latest $1 birth control program (the U.S. is not among them).
Lack of access to birth control is a major driver of maternal death and injury, especially in developing nations, where as many as 1 in 15 women dies as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. And family planning is good for economic development as well, as women who are able to plan their families live longer, have healthier children, and see higher incomes. For every $1 invested in family planning, governments see $4 in returns, from savings and development in education, public health, and water and sanitation.
Eventually, the makers of this injectable contraception say they hope women won't even have to see a health worker every three months and will be able to inject themselves at home.
Image via PATH