Results From the Uganda Self-Injection Best Practices Project
We used qualitative and quantitative data to evaluate the differing experiences of adolescents and adult women in the contraceptive self-injection program in primary care settings in Uganda. From these results, we assessed barriers to adolescent DMPA-SC self-injection access and continuation and provide recommendations to address them.
The Self-Injection Best Practices project (2017–2019) in four districts trained clinic-based providers and Village Health Teams to provide self-injection training in clinics, community settings, and small group meetings for adolescent girls and young women. More than 12,000 women of reproductive age received self-injection services through the program, including 2,215 under 20 years. Structured surveys (n = 1,060) and in-depth interviews (n = 36) were conducted with randomly selected adolescent participants between July and November 2018. Mixed-effects logistic regression was used to assess quantitative differences in outcomes of interest between age groups.
The study found no significant difference in self-injection proficiency or continuation between adolescents and adult women; 92.6% of adolescents self-injected independently when due for reinjection. Adolescents were significantly less likely than adults to report first hearing about self-injection from a community health worker. More adolescents expressed concern over discovery when seeking contraception at a clinic and fear of their DMPA-SC units being discovered at home. Adolescents were significantly less likely than adult women to mention convenience as a rationale for self-injecting, and more likely to mention wanting to learn a new skill and/or that friends recommended self-injection.
Self-injection is a promising method of contraception for adolescents in Uganda, given comparable proficiency and continuation relative to adult women. Policies and programs should ensure rights-based access to a range of methods, including self-injection for this age group.
Self-care reproductive health innovations are increasingly valued as practices that enable women to manage their fertility with greater autonomy. While self-care, by definition, takes place beyond the clinic walls, many self-care practices nonetheless require initial or follow up visits to a health worker. Access to self-care hinges on the extent to which health care workers who serve as gatekeepers find the innovation appropriate and practical. Self-injection of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) is being introduced and scaled in many countries. In late 2018, health workers in Uganda began offering self-injection of DMPA-SC in the public sector, and this study examines health workers’ views on the acceptability and feasibility of training women to self-inject. We conducted in-person interviews with 120 health workers active in the self-injection program to better understand provider practices, program satisfaction, and their views on feasibility. A subset of 77 health workers participated in in-depth interviews. Quantitative data was analyzed using Stata (v14) software, and chi square and student t tests used to measure between group differences. Qualitative data was analyzed using Atlas.ti, employing an iterative coding process, to identify key themes that resonated. The majority of health workers were very satisfied with the self-injection program and reported it was moderately easy to integrate self-injection training into routine service delivery. They identified lack of time to train clients in the clinic setting, lack of materials among community health workers, and client fear of self-injection as key challenges. Community health workers were less likely to report time challenges and indicated higher levels of satisfaction and greater ease in offering self-injection services. The relatively high acceptability of the self-injection program among health workers is promising; however, strategies to overcome feasibility challenges, such as workload constraints that limit the ability to offer self-injection training, are needed to expand service delivery to more women interested in this new self-care innovation. As self-injection programs are introduced and scaled across settings, there is a need for evidence regarding how self-care innovations can be designed and implemented in ways that are practical for health workers, while optimizing women’s successful adoption and use.
Contraceptive self-injection (SI) is a new self-care practice with potential to transform women’s family planning access by putting a popular method, injectable contraception, directly into the hands of users. Research shows that SI is feasible and acceptable; evidence regarding how to design and implement SI programs under real-world conditions is still needed. This evaluation examined women’s experiences when self-injection of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) was introduced in Uganda alongside other contraceptive options in the context of informed choice. We conducted structured survey interviews with 958 randomly selected SI clients trained in three districts in 2019. SI clients demonstrated their injection technique on a model to permit an assessment of injection proficiency. A randomly selected subset of 200 were re-interviewed 10–17 months post-training to understand resupply experiences, waste disposal practices and continuation. Finally, we conducted survey interviews with a random sample of 200 clients who participated in training but declined to self-inject. Data were analyzed using Stata IC/14.2. Differences between groups were measured using chi square and t-tests. Multivariate analyses predicting injection proficiency and SI adoption employed mixed effects logistic regression. Nearly three quarters of SI clients (73%) were able to demonstrate injection proficiency without additional instruction from a provider. Years of education, having received a complete training, practicing, and taking home a job aid were associated with higher odds of proficiency. Self-reported satisfaction and continuation were high, with 93% reinjecting independently 3 months post-training. However, a substantial share of those trained opted not to self-inject. Being single, having a partner supportive of family planning use, training with a job aid, practicing, witnessing a demonstration and exposure to a full training were associated with higher odds of becoming an SI client; conversely, those trained in a group had reduced odds of becoming an SI client. The self-care program was successful for the majority of women who became self-injectors, enabling most women to demonstrate SI proficiency. Nearly all those who opted to self-inject reinjected independently, and the majority continued self-injecting for at least 1 year. Additional research should identify strategies to facilitate adoption by women who wish to self-inject but face challenges.
As new reproductive health products become available, women increasingly want to take a participatory role in their health. New developments and formulations of contraceptive products provide an opportunity to support this evolving trend toward self-care. Self-care, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), highlights the ability of individuals to promote health, prevent disease, and manage their own health with or without the support of a health care provider. WHO self-care guidance includes self-care recommendations related to use of family planning, including self-injection of injectable contraceptives and over-the-counter provision of oral contraceptive pills.
This paper published in Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology focuses on the research evidence of self-administration (self-injection) of DMPA-SC, and the practical experience of providers, women, and family planning programs adopting self-injection practices. The authors also explore the role of self-care in the provision of other contraceptives.
The aim of this study was to examine continuation of subcutaneous and intramuscular depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC and DMPA-IM) when administered by facility-based health workers in Burkina Faso and Village Health Teams (VHTs) in Uganda. Participants were family planning clients of health centers (Burkina Faso) or VHTs (Uganda) who had decided to initiate injectable use. Women selected DMPA-SC or DMPA-IM and study staff followed them for up to four injections (providing 12 months of pregnancy protection) to determine contraceptive continuation. Study staff interviewed women at their first injection (baseline), second injection, fourth injection and if they discontinued either product.
In collaboration with ministries of health, PATH and key partners launched the first pilot introductions of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC, brand name Sayana® Press) in Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda from July 2014 through June 2016. While each country implemented a unique introduction strategy, all agreed to track a set of uniform indicators to chart the effect of introducing this new method across settings. Existing national health information systems (HIS) were unable to track new methods or delivery channels introduced for a pilot, thus were not a feasible source for project data. We successfully monitored the four-country pilot introductions by implementing a four-phase approach: 1) developing and defining global indicators, 2) integrating indicators into existing country data collection tools, 3) facilitating consistent reporting and data management, and 4) analyzing and interpreting data and sharing results. Project partners leveraged existing family planning registers to the extent possible, and introduced new or modified data collection and reporting tools to generate project-specific data where necessary. We routinely shared monitoring results with global and national stakeholders, informing decisions about future investments in the product and scale up of DMPA-SC nationwide. Our process and lessons learned may provide insights for countries planning to introduce DMPA-SC or other new contraceptive methods in settings where stakeholder expectations for measurable results for decision-making are high.
To evaluate the 12-month total direct costs (medical and nonmedical) of delivering subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) under three strategies – facility-based administration, community-based administration and self-injection – compared to the costs of delivering intramuscular DMPA (DMPA-IM) via facility- and community-based administration. We conducted four cross-sectional microcosting studies in three countries from December 2015 to January 2017. We estimated direct medical costs (i.e., costs to health systems) using primary data collected from 95 health facilities on the resources used for injectable contraceptive service delivery. For self-injection, we included both costs of the actual research intervention and adjusted programmatic costs reflecting a lower-cost training aid. Direct nonmedical costs (i.e., client travel and time costs) came from client interviews conducted during injectable continuation studies. All costs were estimated for one couple year of protection. One-way sensitivity analyses identified the largest cost drivers.
The purpose of this study was to compare 12-month continuation rates for subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) administered via self-injection and DMPA-IM administered by a health worker in Uganda. Women seeking injectable contraception at participating health facilities were offered the choice of self-injecting DMPA-SC or receiving an injection of DMPA-IM from a health worker. Those opting for self-injection were trained one-on-one. They self-injected under supervision and took home three units, a client instruction guide and a reinjection calendar. Those opting for DMPA-IM received an injection and an appointment card for the next facility visit in 3 months. We interviewed participants at baseline (first injection) and after 3 (second injection), 6 (third injection) and 9 (fourth injection) months, or upon discontinuation. We used Kaplan–Meier methods to estimate continuation probabilities, with a log-rank test to compare differences between groups. A multivariate Cox regression identified factors correlated with discontinuation.
In Uganda, an estimated one in four adolescent women have begun childbearing. Many adolescent pregnancies are unintended because of substantial barriers to contraceptive access. The injectable contraceptive is the most commonly used method in Uganda, and a new subcutaneous version offers the possibility of reducing access barriers by offering a self-injection option. However, more information about adolescent attitudes toward and interest in self-injection is needed. In 2015, in-depth interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 46 adolescent women aged 15–19 from rural and urban areas of Gulu District. Respondents were asked about their demographic characteristics, experience with contraceptives and opinions about injectable contraception, then introduced to subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) and trained in how to give an injection using a model. They were then asked their opinion about contraceptive self-injection. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed qualitatively to identify key themes. Although the injectable was generally viewed favorably, some adolescents expressed reservations about the suitability of injectable contraception for adolescents. The most common concern was fear of infertility. The majority felt self-injection would be an appealing option to adolescents because of the time and money saved and the discreet nature of injecting at home. Barriers to self-injection included fear of needles, the potential of making a mistake and lack of privacy at home. Contraceptive self-injection has the potential to increase contraceptive access and use for adolescents in Uganda, and should be considered as a delivery modality in the context of adolescent-friendly contraceptive services.
Evidence on contraceptive self-injection from the United States and similar settings is promising, and the practice may increase access. There are no published studies on the feasibility of contraceptive self-injection in sub-Saharan Africa to date. The purpose of this study was to assess feasibility of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate self-injection in Uganda, with specific objectives to (a) measure the proportion of participants who self-injected competently, (b) measure the proportion who self-injected on time 3 months after training (defined conservatively as within 7 days of their reinjection date) and (c) assess acceptability. In this prospective cohort study, 380 18–45-year-old participants completed self-injection training by licensed study nurses, guided by a client instruction booklet, and practiced injection on prosthetics until achieving competence. Nurses supervised participants’ self-injection and evaluated injection technique using an observation checklist. Those judged competent were given a Sayana® Press unit, instruction booklet and reinjection calendar for self-injection at home 3 months later. Participants completed an interview before and after self-injection. Nurses visited participants at home following reinjection dates; during the follow-up visit, participants demonstrated self-injection on a prosthetic, injection technique was reevaluated, and a post reinjection interview was completed.