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Walter Mendoza, analyst for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), commented in Radio Programas del Perú (RPP) regarding the impact of the pandemic on reproductive health services, in a context where an increase of up to 100,000 unplanned births is expected in 2020- 2021.


Family planning services decreased by 50% due to the pandemic. | Source: Andina.


The new coronavirus has saturated the health system nationwide and COVID-19 patients are not the only ones affected. Reproductive health services have markedly declined, and family planning services are estimated to have been cut by about 50%, according to specialists from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


In addition, due to the lack of care, women also face difficulties to access prenatal and postnatal checkups and family counseling. According to Walter Mendoza, Population and Development Issues analyst at UNFPA in Peru, this situation is already having consequences and we will see them with greater intensity in the medium and long term.


Maternal deaths


In an interview with RPP, Mendoza mentioned that a 40% increase in maternal deaths is projected, compared to the previous year, if the health system does not recover and the difficulty of access to health caused by the pandemic continues.


"It is not only due to the lack of access to pre and post-natal controls, but also to the delivery care itself and the postpartum follow-up. For example, a woman can be cared for during childbirth, but then a few weeks later, if she has difficulties she will not be able to get attendance because there is no staff in some establishments”, mentioned the specialist.


Three out of every five maternal deaths in the country occur in the puerperium period, that is, 42 days after the baby delivery. If a woman has any complications during this period, they should receive medical attention. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems are saturated and the number of available intensive care units for pregnant women has decreased.


Increased pregnancies and possible complications


As family planning services are reduced, counseling where contraceptives are provided is also reduced. UNFPA estimates that delivery of these methods has decreased by 40% due to the pandemic. Therefore, it projects that unplanned births will increase between 50,000 and 100,000 by 2020-2021.


Walter Mendoza explained the context in which this would happen: "this, in a situation of crisis, lack of services, lack of employment and education can lead to an increase in induced abortions and, with this, maternal deaths."


In addition, possibly there will be an increase in neonatal deaths because healthcare is not only given to pregnant women, but also to newborns. The highest number of infant deaths in Peru is concentrated in the first week after birth where babies need good quality care.


The UNFPA analyst assured that it is urgent to recover the capacity of the Ministry of Health in all its service networks. And with this, it is necessary to move forward and learn from this situation so as not to return to the traditional care modality.




Mendoza also explained that it is necessary to evaluate the current situation. Currently, reproductive health services are not considered an essential service, which means that they have not been able to reestablish their care in the midst of the pandemic. This must change.


In addition, he pointed out that the importance of community work and the role of the community in health services should be considered. Also, he emphasized the role of home visits and protection tools for health workers.


It is urgent to strengthen the first level of care and, with this, to begin to value the role of Telesalud, which could be of great help for reproductive health services. Only this way, we can prevent more maternal deaths from occurring and guarantee adequate sexual and reproductive health for Peruvian women.