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.
Introduction: Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate subcutaneous injectable contraception (DMPA-SC) may facilitate self-administration and expand contraceptive access. To inform WHO guidelines on self-care interventions, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing self-administration versus provider administration of injectable contraception on outcomes of pregnancy, side effects/adverse events, contraceptive uptake, contraceptive continuation, self-efficacy/empowerment and social harms.
Methods: We searched PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, LILACS and EMBASE in September 2018 for peer-reviewed studies comparing women who received injectable contraception with the option of self-administration with women who received provider-administered injectable contraception on at least one outcome of interest. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane tool for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and the Evidence Project tool for non-randomised studies. Meta-analysis was conducted using random-effects models to generate pooled estimates of relative risk (RR).
Results: Six studies with 3851 total participants met the inclusion criteria: three RCTs and three controlled cohort studies. All studies examined self-injection of DMPA-SC; comparison groups were either provider-administered DMPA-SC or provider-administered intramuscular DMPA. All studies followed women through 12 months of contraceptive coverage and measured (dis)continuation of injectable contraception. Meta-analysis found higher rates of continuation with self-administration compared with provider administration in three RCTs (RR: 1.27, 95% CI 1.16 to 1.39) and three controlled cohort studies (RR: 1.18, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.26). Four studies reported pregnancies; all showed no difference across study arms. Four studies reported side effects/adverse events; while two controlled cohort studies showed increased injection site reactions with self-administration, no other side effects increased with self-administration. One study found no difference in social harms. No studies reported measuring uptake or self-efficacy/empowerment.
Conclusion: A growing evidence base suggests that self-administration of DMPA-SC can equal or improve contraceptive continuation rates compared with provider administration. This benefit comes without notable increases in pregnancy or safety concerns. Self-injection of DMPA-SC is a promising approach to increasing contraceptive use.