Demystifying new contraceptive jab

Sayana Press is a new contraceptive in Malawi. It is an injectable family planning method. A woman using this method will need an injection every three months, totalling four shots a year.

Clinical trials conducted in six rural health centres in Mangochi District between September 2015 and September 2017 indicate that Sayana Press is 99 percent effective when it comes to preventing unintended pregnancy if used correctly.

Unlike Depo Provera, an injectable contraceptive widely used in Malawi, the new injectable is a pre-filled short needle that gives women the ease to inject themselves or get injected by friends with no skills or knowledge of health issues.

Sayana Press is a subcutaneous injection; it comprises a short needle that goes into the fatty layer of a woman’s skin, resulting into little or no pain when administering the injection.

This is unlike Depo Provera which is injected in the muscles.

Women under the reproductive age can self-administer Sayana Press by following these steps:

(1) Identify a place to inject, preferably the bottom of the belly, the bottom and upper thigh or arm. Avoid parts with scars or close to bones.

(2) The identified place should be cleaned with methylated spirit, alcohol or soap to prevent infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi which are ever present on the skin. Without cleaning the spot, the needle might offer germs a pathway into the bloodstream or tissues.

(3) Before self-injection, one is supposed to check the expiry date on the injection pack to avoid complications. Ensure that the pack is not damaged.

(4) Users are supposed to shake the medicine well for 30 minutes to get an even white or off-white liquid. If this does not happen, discard the medicine and use a new one instead.

(5) To inject Sayana Press, the user with one hand should pull the area where she wants to inject, then insert the needle into the pinched skin. Press the reservoir firmly between thumb and forefinger and squeeze slowly to inject the medicine. Do not rub or massage the injection spot.

(6) After self-injection, the needle should be well disposed either in pit latrines or places beyond the reach of children or animals.

(7) Finally, the user should prepare for the next injection by marking on the calendar or any other reminder for the same day they injected.  They should also have another device for the next injection that will not expire by then.

If the users are concerned about whether the drug was properly injected, they should talk to family planning service providers in hospitals, Banja la Mtsogolo (BLM), Family Planning Association of Malawi (Fpam) and Population Services International (PSI) clinics.

The introduction of Sayana Press will help government to achieve its Family Planning 2020 goals.

This is the commitment government made at 2012 London Summit on Family Planning to increase the uptake of modern contraceptives.

If successfully introduced, Sayana Press will help women, especially those living in communities far from health facilities, to continuously use contraceptives.

Because they will regularly endure long distances to health centres, they can collect at once enough doses for the whole year.

However, there is need for an orientation on how to inject it. 

For successful implementation, the Ministry of Health and Population Services and its partners need to intensify social and behaviour change communication to promote and raise awareness of Sayana Press and dispel myths and misconceptions associated with contraceptives.

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