News

Contraceptive implant brings comfort and joy to Myanmar women

22 December 2017
Inserted under the skin of the upper arm with a small incision, the implant prevents unintended pregnancy for up to five years. Bhyat Kha village in Kayin, Myanmar.
Inserted under the skin of the upper arm with a small incision, the implant prevents unintended pregnancy for up to five years. Bhyat Kha village in Kayin, Myanmar.

When the mobile reproductive health team arrives in Bhyat Kha village in Kayin, Myanmar, the clinic is already bursting with clients. The health assistant in the village has used Facebook Messenger to spread the word: Today, the mobile health team are bringing contraceptive implants!

It is going to be a hot day. The clinic is crowded. The queue is building up. But spirits are high, and women are chatting and waiting patiently for their turn. Some are spilling out into the garden area, where husbands help to look after the children. Some families have brought lunch, knowing it may be a long day.

Dr Sett Aung Naing and his mobile outreach team from UNFPA partner Marie Stopes International quickly unpack their pick-up truck and get ready to start the day’s work.

“I was pregnant every two years”

One of the women who have arrived early is Ou Lu. She is 37 years old and she has seven children. Shy and soft-spoken, she says that when she got married, she hoped to have a family with two children. But she and her husband – a migrant farm worker – are poor. They could not afford contraceptives. Ou Lu became pregnant every two years.

Ou Lu, 37 years old and mother of seven children.

Then, after giving birth to her sixth child, she was able to access the 3-month contraceptive injection for free. Life started to look up for the family.

“When I didn’t have to breastfeed and take care of a new baby, I was able to take on work outside my home and earn some extra money. We used it for school uniforms and books”, says Ou Lu. “But with my husband mostly away, I have so many responsibilities. One time I was not able to visit the clinic in time for my contraceptive refill, and I got pregnant again.”

The reproductive health assistant demonstrates the implant.

“I feel safe now”

Her youngest child is a lovely little boy with a cheeky smile. But her feelings about becoming a mother for the seventh time are mixed. She has had to give up her work. Without the extra income, her older children now stay at home instead of going to school. There is not enough money for uniforms and books.  So when Ou Lu heard about the contraceptive implant, she did not hesitate.

“With the implant, I cannot get pregnant for five years. I have worried so much about this for such a long time. Now I finally feel safe. I trust the doctor. The implant is a good thing for my family and I”, says Ou Lu.

Five years of protection

Contraceptive implants are long-acting reversible contraceptives. Inserted under the skin of the upper arm with a small incision, the implant prevents unintended pregnancy for up to five years. But it is also reversible. If a woman would like to try for another baby, the implant is removed, and she can become pregnant again.

Over the last three years, UNFPA has invested overUS$2 million in implants in Myanmar. Through a collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sports, implants are offered for free in public health facilities. NGO partners provide the implants for free or for a reduced price.

Exhausted but happy

Dr Sett Aung Naing at the end of a long day: Exhausted but happy.

By the end of the day, Dr Sett Aung Naing and his team are exhausted but also happy. Dozens of women have received contraceptive implants, as well as family planning counselling and other types of contraceptives, today. But although the team have worked tirelessly not everyone has had their turn.

“We have so many villages to serve that we can only come a few times per year to each village”, says Dr Sett as he wipes his brow in the heat of the late afternoon.

“But I just cannot leave these women to wait for months for family planning advice and contraceptives. Even if it’s a long journey, the team and I have decided to change our schedules so that we can return to Bhyat Kha tomorrow morning so that everyone who’s come to see us will be served.”

 

Thanks to voluntary family planning, millions of women in Myanmar are empowered to decide how many children to have, and when to have them. The mobile outreach clinics in Kayin are funded under the UNFPA Myanmar Women and Girls First initiative.