Introducing the Progesterone Vaginal Ring (PVR) as a new option for postpartum family planning in sub-Saharan Africa: insights from engagements with stakeholders
The progesterone vaginal ring (PVR) is a ring-shaped device designed for use by women in the postpartum period to regulate fertility by complementing and extending the contraceptive effectiveness of lactational amenorrhea to suppress ovulation.1 It is available in eight Latin American countries for use by breastfeeding women who want more effective modern contraceptives in addition to contraceptive benefits provided by lactational amenorrhea alone.1 The PVR is a method that can be suitable to women in sub-Saharan Africa, given the near-universal practice of breastfeeding and the current level of unmet need for contraception in the postpartum period. Efforts are currently underway to introduce the PVR in Africa and south Asia. To ensure a seamless introduction, scale up and sustainability of the PVR in the region, the Population Council conducted pre-introductory activities with stakeholders in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal to determine the level of interest in the ring, potential facilitating and mitigating factors and identify solutions to address challenges. The research team combined three approaches: in-depth interviews with family planning stakeholders; desk review of reports and policy guidelines; and in-group meetings. The stakeholders reached included public sector officials including policy makers and program managers, implementing partners, regulators, women and religious networks. All three countries had a promising policy and programmatic context that was supportive to PVR introduction. The exercise provided insights on socio-cultural and religious factors that could potentially impact how the PVR is perceived within communities and identified possible remedies to address misperceptions. It also paved the way for the conduct of an acceptability study of the PVR among breastfeeding women in these countries. The high acceptability rate in each country and the support expressed by government and other stakeholders have provided impetus for registration of the product in each country. Learning from this process could also direct how other family planning and reproductive health commodities would be introduced in the future.
Keywords: Progesterone Vaginal Ring, postpartum family planning, sub-Saharan Africa