Implant contraceptive ‘to curb teen pregnancies’

28 February 2014

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Thursday unveiled a new sub-dermal implant contraceptive that, from June, will be freely available to South African women at state clinics countrywide.

The contraceptive device, which is implanted below the skin of the arm and is effective for up to three years, is expected to help reduce both the number of unwanted and teenage pregnancies and the number of maternal deaths in the country.

Motsoaledi unveiled the new device at the Ethafeni Clinic in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg during the launch of his department’s revised Contraceptive and Fertility Planning Policy and Service Delivery Guidelines.

Speaking at the launch, Motsoaledi said the National Development Plan (NDP) required all South Africans to work together to reduce the burden of disease, in particular of maternal and child mortality.

He said a committee tasked with visiting all hospitals, public and private, to collect data on women who died as a result of pregnancies, had found that 8% of the roughly one-million women who fell pregnant in South Africa every year were girls below the age of 18.

He said these minors were giving birth to 80 000 unplanned babies annually. “They contribute to 36% of all maternal deaths, because they are too young to fall pregnant. They easily die … due to issues like hypertension.”

However, the minister said, the new contraceptive was also meant for married women who were advised by their doctors not to fall pregnant again following previous pregnancy-related complications.

Once inserted, the device is effective for three years. “You no longer have to go to the hospital every three months, you’ll now go after three years. But if you want to have a baby before three years, you just come and ask us to remove it.”

Motsoaledi said 2 000 nurses had so far been trained on how to insert the device, and that 4 000 nurses would have been trained by the time the contraceptive become available at clinics from June.

Ntulikazi Mbatha (24) from Tembisa, who was one of the first recipients of the new device, said she was happy that there were no side-effects, unlike the injection, which she said had increased her appetite and led to weight gain.

“The most exciting part is that I won’t default or have to go the clinic every three months – my next visit to the clinic will be 2016,” Mbatha said. “With the device I can plan my future properly, and I think it would be good for teenagers to use it as well so that they can finish their studies.”

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini described the device as liberating for women. “This gives us an opportunity to respond to the challenges that we are facing. With this [device] our children will finish school and take care of families out of poverty … It’s freedom for our children.”

Deputy Economic Development Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize said that if young girls were prevented from falling pregnant they could remain in school and complete their studies. “We endorse this initiative … It will contribute to the economy of the country.”