The ABC of Contraception in Central and Eastern Europe

As summer ends and nights become longer, there is an almost immediate need to speak about contraception. Wasn’t this the rationale behind setting the World Contraception Day on September 26th, just 3 days after the autumnal equinox?

What is contraception the Eastern European way?


Here is our ABC...Oops, I do not really mean Abstinence, Be faithful, and correct and consistent condom use. We all know that abstinence doesn’t work.


A can stay for abortion. Yes, we are aware that this is not a contraceptive. Nevertheless, lack of access to accurate information and financial means to access appropriate contraceptives has led to high rates of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies resulting in abortion. In Russia, Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia women do not have the means to prevent unwanted pregnancies and thus, the rates of unwanted pregnancies are very high with abortion being a primary method of fertility control.


Abortion is practically illegal in Poland, this is why Poles go for the proverbial glass of cold water instead. I was always wondering what do you do with this glass? Do you stick it between your thighs? Do you drink it? Talking about drinks, have you tried Coca Cola? Why do so many youngsters fall for the urban legend and attempt to use coke as a spermicide? If C is not for coke it may well be for coitus interruptus - one of the most favoured method of our region. In Armenia, this method is used by 53% of those who say they use contraception. Withdrawal in general is the main method still used in Central and Eastern Europe, where its general prevalence reaches 18%.


Contraception is critical to a woman’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancy and make some of the most basic decisions about her health and life. Although the international health and human rights standards require governments to make modern contraceptives affordable and accessible, in most of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe modern contraceptives are not covered by public health insurance. As a result, for too many women from our region modern contraceptives remain tragically out of reach. Women are often forced to make a choice between feeding their families and buying contraceptives.


Prevalence of modern contraceptives methods in Central and Eastern Europe is 36% as compared to 71% prevalence rate in Western European countries. In some countries the yearly costs of contraception are higher than that of abortion (Russia, Armenia). Moreover, health care providers often have misconceptions about modern contraceptives methods and thus either misinform their patients or are reluctant to discuss contraceptive options with them. Often this is related to the personal religious views of the health care providers or pharmacists. 


This post was written by Katarzyna Pabijanek; ASTRA Network Coordinator as part of WGNRR's 'World Contraception Day' activities. 


September 26th is World Contraception Day. As part of the WGNRR campaign, ‘Recognise Reproductive Rights, Mobilise for Reproductive Justice’; we are posting a series of blog posts from members, allies, and staff on the many complexities of contraceptive use, access, and knowledge with regard to exercising one’s sexual and reproductive health and rights that we face today. Please feel free to share and disseminate. If you should like to contribute to the series, please e-mail with your post, including any relevant photos.