Many young Filipino women who are sexually active admitted that they are not aware of the emergency contraception (EC), also known as Yuzpe method, which may help prevent teenage pregnancy, a survey revealed.
In a survey conducted by DKT Philippines Foundation, only 13% of the 500 young unmarried women surveyed in June-July said they were aware of the Yuzpe method as an option.
The study found that only few of the respondents aged 18-29 were aware about the possibility of preventing pregnancy after unprotected intercourse with contraceptive pills.
During the virtual discussion, Hyam Asher Bolande, country director and chairman of DKT Philippines, revealed that contraceptive pills (86%), condom (84%), and withdrawal (82%) are still the most common family planning methods in the Philippines. Only 1 in 4 women were aware of EC.
This indicates, according to the research agency, that the lack of awareness on emergency contraception is holding it back as a weapon for combating the Philippines’ rising adolescent pregnancy rates.
Medical experts under the Department of Health guidelines may prescribe the Yuzpe method, an enlarged dose of combined oral contraceptive pills, to avoid unwarranted conception following an unprotected intercourse.
In 2019, the births to mothers aged 10-19 rose to 180,916 (495 per day), according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Last June, President Rodrigo Duterte declared prevention of teen pregnancies a “national priority”, issuing Executive Order 141 which calls for measures to address the problem, including strengthening sexual education so that adolescents can make more informed decisions.
Among the respondents of the survey, more than two in three said they had unprotected sex before. The same proportion (68%) reported having experienced “pregnancy scares.”
In addition, 94% of this group of women also reported suffering negative emotional states after unprotected sex, such as fear of pregnancy, anxiety, guilt and sadness.
In a follow-up online survey conducted by the Foundation in October, nearly one-third (32%) of 1,046 Filipino doctors and midwives active in family planning said they were not also aware of the Yuzpe method.
However, in the same informal survey, a whopping 85% of the healthcare providers reported they had patient inquiries about emergency contraception.
First introduced in Britain in 1984, EC pills have emerged as one of the world’s principal family-planning methods and are now approved for use in 149 countries.
Sometimes referred to as “morning after pills,” they can prevent pregnancy as long as 72-120 hours after unprotected intercourse, depending on type. They are most effective, studies show, if taken quickly after. Yuzpe Method has an 88% efficacy rate if taken within 72 hours.
Published international studies showed that unmarried women and women in their early 20s exhibit the greatest use of EC.
“These pills fill a need when sex is infrequent or unexpected, which is often the case for people just entering their sexually active years,” Bolande said.
“EC pills can provide a last line of safe defense against unwanted pregnancy when the male partner doesn’t use a condom.”
A dedicated EC pill, Postinor, was registered for importation and sale in the Philippines, but in 2001, the Bureau of Food and Drugs cancelled its approval, saying that the drug had an “abortifacient effect.”
Medical researchers worldwide have concluded by consensus that EC is contraception, not abortion, however, and no significant debate on the question exists in the global field of obstetric science.
“Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation and they do not induce an abortion,” the World Health Organization Fact Sheet on the topic stated.
Bolande also bared that the EC pills are prescription drugs and could not be both easily over-the-counter.
He also added that according to the Reproductive Health law in the Philippines, women, who are under 18 years old, need to have parental consent before seeking a doctors’ prescription which can be a barrier in preventing teen pregnancies.
“They will need to go to a doctor and get a prescription with their parent's consent. And for a lot of adolescents, I imagine, that's something they would feel hesitant or frightened to seek, or approach their parents and say, 'I'm afraid I'm pregnant. And I like to see a doctor. Can you go with me?' That could be a barrier,” Bolande explained.