Pharmacies at the heart of family planning

Johannesburg – One of the biggest questions couples, especially women, need to ask before deciding to start a family is: are you ready to be a mother?

This applies whether or not you are married (or planning to be) or if you are sexually active. This is a question you need to ask yourself and answer honestly.

Being a parent comes with a huge responsibility, and if you’re thinking about furthering your education, changing or advancing your career, traveling, or making other life-changing decisions in the near future, don’t probably isn’t the best time to think about starting a family. .

Many women buy family planning products from pharmacies.

To this end, the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) wants pharmacists to be regulated so that they can officially administer family planning services.

The council says the industry is unregulated despite pharmacists providing these services for 30 years.

“While the advice of the council published [by SAPC] does not introduce new areas of practice for pharmacists who hold the appropriate licenses after completing accredited further education.

It defines the skills they must possess and the training outcomes that a further training program must meet for such training to be accepted by the SAPC as sufficient,” says Council Clerk and CEO Vincent Tlala.

The regulations relating to additional training or refresher courses were last updated in 1995.

“This advice from the council, when published, will allow for a clearer and up-to-date regulatory regime for this service.

“This will also allow facilities that were not identified by the then Minister of Health [Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma] in the 1995 regulations to provide additional training on family planning.

Tlala says if more pharmacists are trained, more girls and women can confidently walk into a pharmacy to ask for contraceptives and other family planning options.

The council believes this will alleviate the scourge of teenage pregnancies, especially in poorer communities, as women will not feel stigmatized as they do when visiting public clinics.

The council proposes that once a pharmacist has undergone additional training and obtained authorization from the Director General of Health, he can offer the following family planning services:

  • Provide medication and family planning therapy (i.e. contraception, post-coital emergency contraception (called the morning after pill).
  • Provide supportive care for monitoring and managing medication and therapy outcomes, and adverse drug reactions.
  • Refer a patient to an appropriate health worker (e.g. public health facility, general practitioner, gynecologist, etc.), when a need for additional examination requiring other care or breast examination, genito-examination internal and external urinary is identified.

Each birth control method works slightly differently, but they all create one or more of the following effects to prevent pregnancy:

  • Stops ovulation: Prevents the release of an egg, tricking the body into thinking it has already happened.
  • Alters the uterine lining: prevents the lining of the uterus from preparing to receive an egg.
  • Changes Cervical Fluid: Thickens the mucus in the cervix to prevent sperm from passing through.

Key facts about family planning, according to WHO

  • Of the 1.9 billion women of reproductive age (15-49) worldwide in 2019, 1.1 billion need family planning. Among them, 842 million use contraceptive methods and 270 million have an unmet need for contraception.
  • The proportion of women of childbearing age whose family planning needs are met by modern contraceptive methods has increased gradually over the past decades, from 73.6% in 2000 to 76.8% in 2020.
  • A single contraceptive method – condoms – can prevent both pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

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Somaya Stockenstroom

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