Nearly 2 million Filipino women of reproductive age, or those between 15 to 49 years old, will get pregnant this year, leading to an additional 214,000 unplanned births. It is also believed that 10 percent of the births will be among women below 20 years of age, also with an additional 5,000 pregnancies.

These alarming numbers were raised by the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), as it cited a recent projection from the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which estimated the potential unfavorable impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 on family planning efforts in the country.

The study revealed that among women 15 to 49 years old, there are about 3,099,000 with unmet need for family planning exacerbated by COVID-19. With family-planning services impeded due to the nationwide implementation of community quarantines, an additional 590,000 might be added to the figure, bringing the total to 3,688,000—a 19-percent jump.

According to POPCOM, the highest number of births in the country since 2000 was 1.790 million, and the number has since been declining. There were 1.668 million births in 2018, thus an additional 214,000 would push the number to almost 1.9 million in 2021.

More distressing are the figures for teenagers, or those between 15 and 19 years old: From an initial estimate of 163,000 adolescents with unmet need for family planning, the lockdown will swell this number to 15,000, aggregating the entire set at 178,000, or a surge of 9.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the contraceptive prevalence rate, or CPR, for modern family planning methods—the percentage of women who use any method of modern contraception—is projected to decline by 2.2 percent. This means over 400,000 women will drop out of the country’s family planning program.

“Looking at these numbers, we foresee that because of the restrictions of movement as well as the reduction of access of women and men to family planning supplies, there will be at least one pregnancy for every three women with an unmet need for family planning,” Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM’s executive director, explained. “Those are just some of the adverse impacts of the community quarantine to the welfare of our families, which further aggravates the situation of the ongoing health crisis.”

The POPCOM chief noted, “While the numbers are staggering, this should sound the alarm for everyone that as the pandemic rages on, family planning should still be top-of-mind for everyone—not only for those directly involved in service-delivery, but also for all men and women—mothers and fathers, and even our teenage children—who can make a difference by doing their very best to avoid being added as a statistic to the abovementioned numbers; that is, to ensure that they help reduce the incidences of unplanned pregnancies.”

In his media interviews, Perez has reiterated that numerous measures for family planning are presently in-place, such as the home delivery of three months’ worth of supplies of family planning commodities such as pills and condoms for those who have enlisted to the family planning program. Health centers are also open to accommodate women who wish to avail of injectables and subdermal implants to ensure the duration of the effect of the contraceptives. POPCOM also has active helplines and chat features which may be sourced through its Usap Tayo sa Family Planning Facebook page (@UsapTayoSaFP).

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(Note: Modern family planning methods include non-scalpel vasectomy (for males) and bilateral tubal ligation (for females), injectables, intrauterine devices or IUDs, pills, implants, condoms, standard days method or SDM, mucus/Billings/ovulation, basal body temperature, symptothermal and the lactational amenorrhea method or LAM.)