BASEL, SWITZERLAND (4 May 2016) — This week at the 14th Congress of the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health, experts from the Population Council presented on five topics: the need for investment in family planning research and development, the impact of family planning on maternal mortality, male contraceptives, new user-controlled family planning methods, and contraception during lactation. The focus of this year’s congress was Contraception: from molecular biology to social science and politics.
“The Population Council is proud to present insights from our research and new Council-developed technologies at this year’s Congress,” said Régine Sitruk-Ware, Distinguished Scientist at the Population Council’s Center for Biomedical Research. “With the global focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and FP2020, now is the time to increase investment in research and product development to ensure we are meeting the family planning needs, goals, and desires of women and couples everywhere.”
Population Council Presentations:
Sitruk-Ware delivered a keynote address on the second day of the conference in which she discussed the application of emerging science to contraception research. In an address titled “Molecular Biology and Advanced Technology for Contraception,” Sitruk-Ware discussed the impact that emerging science will have on the development of improved contraceptives including multipurpose technologies and male contraceptive options.
Family Planning and Maternal Mortality
In a presentation titled, “Impact of Family Planning Research on Decrease in Maternal Mortality” John Townsend, Vice President and Director of the Population Council’s Reproductive Health Program, discussed the impact that family planning has on maternal mortality.
Family planning plays a role in reducing maternal deaths by removing women who do not want to become pregnant from the pool of women at risk. In many countries nearly half of all pregnancies are reported as unintended. About 21.6 million women experience an unsafe abortion worldwide each year.
There are wide disparities in maternal mortality between rich and poor women and between urban and rural areas, both within countries and between them. The Population Council is conducting research on closing these social gaps in equitable access and care as well as improving access to new technologies to improve safety, reduce contraceptive discontinuation, and support women’s and men’s decisions on reproduction.
In a discussion titled” Vaginal Rings as User-Controlled Methods,” Regine Sitruk-Ware, on behalf of George Creasy, medical director, Population Council, spoke about the need to address barriers to use of contraceptives. Multiple studies and surveys have whown that for some women, lack of user control and the possibility of breakthrough bleeding are barriers to long-acting contraceptive use.
Sitruk-Ware spoke about Population Council-developed products like the one-year Nestorone®/ethinyl estradiol (NES/EE) contraceptive ring (CVR) and the Progesterone Vaginal Ring (PVR), two options that address these concerns. If approved by regulatory authorities, the NES/EE CVR will be the first long-acting, reversible contraceptive under a woman’s control. It would be a unique contraceptive that is effective for 13 cycles and does not require insertion or removal by a trained healthcare professional.
Postpartum Family Planning
To protect the health of women and newborns, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an interval of at least 24 months before attempting the next pregnancy. In a session titled “Contraception During Breastfeeding,” Ruth Merkatz, director of clinical development for the Population Council’s Center for Biomedical Research, discussed the need for safe, effective postpartum family planning methods for use by breastfeeding women.
The need for access to safe and effective family planning methods is especially important in low- resource settings where changing social norms about the role of women and growing urbanization have resulted in a decline in the length of time women exclusively breastfeed, and have reduced effective use of the lactation amenorrhea method (LAM) for child spacing.
Merkatz discussed the Council-developed progesterone vaginal ring (PVR) as a safe option for postpartum lactating women. The PVR was developed as a user-controlled method for postpartum lactating women to extend the contraceptive effectiveness of lactation amenorrhea. The PVR is safe for both mother and baby and does not affect a woman’s ability to produce breast milk. In addition, it allows fertility to return after a woman stops using the ring. The PVR is approved in 8 Latin American countries, and renewed efforts are underway to expand its availability in countries where extended breastfeeding is common. Acceptability studies conducted by the Council in three sub-Saharan African countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal) suggest that the PVR is well-liked by young women who have had no prior experience using contraception, and that the PVR can fill a gap in contraceptive options for breastfeeding women.
New contraceptive methods have been developed to meet the goals of expanding contraceptive choices for both women and men and addressing unmet needs. In a session titled “Promising Targets for Non-hormonal Male Contraception,” Sitruk-Ware discussed the need for increased investment in research and development of non-hormonal male contraceptive technologies.
“There is an obvious need to provide men with choices for their fertility regulation but advocacy for this research needs to expand and convince the industry that there is a market with unmet needs that deserves attention and investments,” said Sitruk-Ware. “The Congress presents a unique opportunity for experts to discuss the multi-faceted aspects of contraception and reproductive health, including unmet need and the importance of developing new contraceptive technologies.”
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About the Population Council
The Population Council confronts critical health and development issues—from stopping the spread of HIV to improving reproductive health and ensuring that young people lead full and productive lives. Through biomedical, social science, and public health research in 50 countries, we work with our partners to deliver solutions that lead to more effective policies, programs, and technologies that improve lives around the world. Established in 1952 and headquartered in New York, the Council is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization governed by an international board of trustees.
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