Opportunities and Challenges of Delivering Postabortion Care and Postpartum Family Planning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A mobile clinical outreach team from Marie Stopes International, a specialized sexual reproductive health and family planning organization on a site visit to Laniar health center, a rural area, where they offer many sexual reproductive health services and counseling, including the full range of family planning options, emergency contraception, pre- and post natal care, and cervical cancer screening and treatment.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is poised to cause infection and death in millions of people across the globe at a stunning pace.The scale of the required response will inevitably pivot attention and resources toward fighting the pandemic and away from essential reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health care, including access to voluntary family planning in the critical postabortion and postpartum periods. Decreased access to these lifesaving services will lead to a downstream increase in maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Data from previous complex emergencies demonstrate that a decrease in access to family planning results in increased poor outcomes related to unintended pregnancies and abortions.

In a pandemic as vast and unique as COVID-19, where the primary mitigating factor is elimination of close physical contact, harnessing opportunities to provide family planning education, services, and supplies while women are already interfacing with the health care system during pregnancy and the postabortion, childbirth, and postpartum periods is strategic and lifesaving. This will require acceleration of integrated service delivery as well as creative and dynamic innovations of alternative service delivery approaches to address the family planning needs of pregnant, postabortion, birthing, and postpartum women. Investment in documentation of programmatic learnings could offer insights and opportunities for improving the resilience of health systems. Devoting scarce health resources to ensure the family planning needs of pregnant, postabortion, birthing, and postpartum women are met during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is an investment against higher health systems burdens in later months and during subsequent waves of the pandemic and a means to ultimately save lives and improve livelihoods.