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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

COVID-19 and high rate of conception, unplanned pregnancies

Nigerians should be concerned about the high rate of conception and unplanned pregnancy at this time of lockdown against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

Unplanned pregnancy is a major cause for concern due to the lockdown informed by the coronavirus plague

Though it might seem that Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) should be the least of our worries during this COVID 19 outbreak, however learning from the Ebola experience, outbreaks such as this increases the risk of the vulnerable population – internally displaced persons, women, and girls – to teenage pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, rape, gender-based violence and domestic violence.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the global economy and basically disrupting the world order and, as the days go by and the weeks unfold, we have continually seen how the unexpected situation affects every aspect of our lives,  with many issues taken for granted becoming major dynamics of the life of individuals and communities.

I am sure the question is who thinks about sexual activities when people are getting sick and some are dying from COVID-19. Learning from the Ebola experience, outbreaks such as this increases the risk of the vulnerable population – internally displaced persons, women and girls – to teenage pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Rape, gender-based violence and Domestic violence.”

The social distancing policy, which is the only reasonable thing to do currently, involves closing down schools, markets, etc., hence, which makes a lot of people including young people very idle.

Consequently, adolescent girls and vulnerable women end up in various compromising situations. For instance, the young girl that finds her school as a safe space is back in the house with that abusive uncle, neighbour or stepfather; that woman who intentionally spends most of her time selling in the market to avoid engaging in sexual activities with her husband, especially for fear of pregnancy, is now stuck with him at home, while  young people in relationships are more likely to engage in consensual sexual activities this period,

We should be concerned about the high rate of conception and in turn unplanned pregnancies at this period. What is our role in making sure everyone is informed of the right options to take up as regards their sexual and reproductive health?

This is also a reminder to us that social distancing or the stay at home policy is not a license to perpetuate gender-based violence, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence and a bad habit of having sex without a proper plan to prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Also, it is crucial that we all take responsibility for our sexual needs during this time. Married/cohabiting couples who are not on a long-acting contraceptive/family planning method should remember to stock up on condoms. Young people should endeavor to abstain at this time and if you can’t, get handy condoms and emergency contraceptives.

The reality is, this is not a good time to have unplanned pregnancies because the pressure of the pandemic on the health system will affect/disrupt routine Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services such as family planning, ante-natal services, post-abortion care services, immunization services, etc.

In addition, government agencies and parastatals should reiterate to the public the implications of perpetrating sexual, domestic and gender-based violence at this time. In addition, they should ensure the availability of non-prescriptive SRH commodities such as condoms, Emergency Contraceptives Pills (ECPs) and post-exposure prophylaxis at pharmacies across the country.

So, these services can easily be accessible to people in their neighborhood hence mitigating the possibilities of increased SRH issues after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, as young people, we should endeavour to make good use of this period by engaging in productive self-development activities such as reading a book, trying out new hobbies, digital skills or even documenting your Social Distancing experience. You will be amazed at how your writing skills would have improved by the end of this period.

Also, remember to pick up SRH products at any Pharmacy or Primary Health Centre close to you.

By Ajani Bless-me Oluwatobi, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Youth Focal Point, Nigeria, for Development Communications (DevComs) Network and) Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI II)

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