Nigeria’s tough economic situation may be pushing more couples to adopt family planning methods, including the use of contraceptive pills, according to experts.
Contraceptive pills, also known as birth control pills, are medicines with hormones containing a combination of an oestrogen and a progestogen to prevent pregnancies or control childbirth. They are commonly used by women between the ages of 15 and 49.
Uche Ajike, an Enugu-based family planning expert, Society for Family Health (SFH), said more women seem to be realising that the economy is very hard and this has pushed up the awareness and the demand for various family planning methods.
“In the North, for example, the demand for injectables, a common modern contraception method, is on the rise. Over 70 percent of injectables are used in the North whereas down South, other methods are more popular,” Ajike said.
He said many organisations, including the Federal Ministry of Health and interpersonal community agents, are now joining in the advocacy of educating and expanding the knowledge and benefits of contraceptive pills (modern family planning).
Nigeria had made little or no progress in improving the use of any contraceptive method in the past. According to Nigeria’s 2013 demographic health survey by the National Population Commission, about 85 percent of women and 95 percent of men reported they knew about a contraceptive method, but just 15 percent were using it.
Nigerians have been faced with harsh economic conditions in recent times. The World Poverty Clock report by Brookings Institution in May last year showed that Nigeria is now the nation with the highest number of extremely poor people, having about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million.
The country was in recession for five consecutive quarters but returned to positive growth of 0.72 percent in the second quarter (Q2) of 2017, from -0.67 percent in Q1 2016. And for the full year of 2018, it ended in 1.93 percent, according to data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Unemployment rate rose to 23 percent in the third quarter of 2018, from 18.8 percent in the same corresponding period in 2017.
“The economic situation in the country has pushed up contraceptive use,” said Bayo Osunshina, a family planning doctor at Lagos-based Vitamedical Clinic.
“A number of women are now taking family planning of different types. The most common one is the injectables. And it is more commonly used in the western part of the country than in the east. But generally, there is an increase,” Osunshina said.
Postinor 2, a popular contraceptive pill among women, is currently either scarce in the market or sold at a premium where available.
Checks in well-known pharmaceutical stores in Lagos – including HealthPlus Limited, Juli Pharmacy, Care Forte Pharmacy, Teen Pharmacy, and T&D Pharmacy – showed the drug is hardly available, leading to a sharp rise in price.
Our findings show that where available, the drug now sells for between N950 and N1,600, up from its former price of N400-N600.
The high demand for the drug is responsible for the rise in price, a pharmacist at T&D Pharmacy said.
“It is not even in the market currently,” Tomisi Akinyemi, a pharmacist at HealthPlus Limited, told BusinessDay. “People are hiking the price because it is scarce and the demand for it is high. I know that a lot of pharmacies do not have it.”
Akinyemi explained that Postinor 2 is the only contraceptive pill that is scarce at the moment.
NPS MEDICINEWISE, an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on drugs and therapeutics, says that Postinor-2 is an emergency contraceptive containing levonorgestrel, a hormonal medication which is used in a number of birth control methods. It is not intended as a regular method of contraception. It is used to prevent pregnancies when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse.
It is estimated that the pill prevents 85 percent of expected pregnancies. 95 percent of expected pregnancies will be prevented if taken within the first 24 hours, declining to 58 percent if taken between 48 hours and 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.