Online retailers are capitalizing on limited access to family planning during the COVID-19 crisis.
eBay sellers across Europe are listing birth control pills, emergency contraception, and IUDs, and some are offering them at discounted prices to attract buyers, according to the Daily Mail.
IUDs require insertion by a trained medical professional and should be purchased through a doctor or health center. Experts advise against buying medicated contraception online.
Women who purchase contraception on websites like eBay run the risk of getting unsafe or fake medication that doesn’t protect against unplanned pregnancies, Tracey Forsyth, the lead contraceptive nurse at British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told the Daily Mail.
Counterfeit drugs can contain toxic chemicals and may not have any of the active ingredients needed for the medication to be effective, according to Diana Gall, a doctor at the online pharmacy Doctors4U.
Medicated contraception is known to cause adverse side effects and patients are advised to use them under medical guidance. Buying contraception from unknown sources can increase the risk of adverse side effects, Gall added.
Forsyth shared tips for accessing family planning while observing stay-at-home orders to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Women who are having trouble obtaining their usual contraception method should seek assistance from online pharmacies that allow women to order months' worth of medicated contraception at a time and that offer delivery. When buying medicated contraception online, it's important to make sure the website is listed on the government’s medicine sellers register and displays the drug's logo, she explained.
When health care systems are forced to direct all of their resources to tackling an epidemic, sexual and reproductive health care can be overlooked. The number of women unable to access family planning or experience an unplanned pregnancy could increase by the millions due to the COVID-18 crisis, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
According to one study by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, 86% of health centers could not offer long-acting contraception like an IUD or implant since the coronavirus outbreak.
Reproductive health advocates are urging governments to strengthen health systems and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health to allow all women and girls to make safe decisions about their bodies and families.