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Dying Women Don't Need Contraception

Thursday, October 06, 2011 8:00 AM Comments (150)

According to The New York Times, a new study shows that injectable contraceptives popular in Africa are making HIV infection rates rise.

The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months [probably a generic version of Depo Provera], appears to double the risk the women will become infected with H.I.V., according to a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception.

You may think that the rise in rates of HIV transmission comes because couples using hormonal contraception are less likely to be using condoms also, but this is not the case:

The researchers recorded condom use, essentially excluding the possibility that increased infection occurred because couples using contraceptives were less likely to use condoms.

The progestin in injectable contraceptives appears to have a physiological effect, scientists said.

They may also make HIV more severe in women who are already infected.  So the WHO is scratching its head, trying to figure out whether or not it makes sense to start pushing a different type of contraceptive.

“We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women,” [an epidemiologist with WHO] said. “This is a very difficult dilemma.”

Why is it is important to put all of Africa on birth control?  Well,

Hundreds of thousands of [African women] suffer injuries, bleeding, infections and even death in childbirth from unintended pregnancies.

Let’s step back for a moment and talk about unintended pregnancies.  According to Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute, about half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended.  You can add me in there, Guttmacher:  some of my favorite babies came as a complete surprise to me and my husband.  So I challenge, with all my might, the assumption that “unintended” is the same as “shouldn’t have happened.”  And no, it’s not different for me because I’m white and went to college.  Africans love and need their babies, too, and can grasp the concept of caring for a child whose conception was unplanned.

Now let’s return to the statistics about what happens when women actually give birth.  How many American women suffer injuries, bleeding, infections and death in childbirth?  These numbers are harder to come by, but this comparative chart gives you the general idea:  the maternal death rate in the US is about 8 per 100,000 women.  In African nations, the rate is as high as 1,100 per 100,000.

The global community spends billions of dollars per year flooding Africa with contraception.  WHO pushes and pushes to change centuries-old African love for large families.

The NYT article says,

Dr. Ludo Lavreys, an epidemiologist who led one of the first studies to link injectable contraceptives to increased H.I.V. risk, said intrauterine devices, implants and other methods should be explored and expanded. “Before you stop” recommending injectables, he said, “you have to offer them something else.”

I agree.  How about offering more aid for safe childbirth?  Maternal and neonatal death is often easily preventable with basic care.  The postpartum African woman who is septic or hemorrhaging to death does not need a shiny new type of contraceptive.  She needs help.  She needs basic medical supplies. 

She shouldn’t have to choose between barrenness and death.

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About Simcha Fisher

Simcha Fisher
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Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs at I Have to Sit Down. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and nine children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.