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Misconceptions about family planning



Misconceptions about family planning

In spite of availability of family planning commodities, their usage has been largely turned down by the majority that need them in developing countries, writes APPOLONI A ADEYEMI



T oday, Mr. and Mrs. Toye and Stella Alabi bear a big burden. The couple has nine children and contends with their upbringing including feeding, clothing and paying for their education in private institutions.

They feel particularly over-burdened given the present socio-economic situation in the country where the falling value of the Naira has resulted in the uncontrollable rise in prices of basic necessesities.

A chat with Mrs Alabi recently revealed that if this family had another opportunity of going through their lives again, adopting some family planning method would be a key option.

However, given the ordeal they have been through in day-to-day living, struggling to make ends meet in the responsibility of their family upkeep, she confessed that it hasn’t been a mean task. Asked if she and her husband did not know about the advantages of contraceptives, she explained that negative stories of the impact of family planning commodities had actually put them off using the products.

Despite the hardship this couple faces, they are not alone in rejecting modern contraceptives. For Mr. Mark Chiejile, an accountant in his late 40s, his experience with contraceptives is the same. He regards them as untouchables.

“I will not allow my wife to use them,” he charged while discussing his attitude towards contraceptives. He noted that a close friend of his wife who lives next door is already going out of shape occasioned by weight gain from contraceptive use.

That apart, he said, “I cannot contemplate my wife using such drugs.” He added, “how do I check her from being promiscuous? She could conveniently play around with other men, if care is not taken.” Although, Echiejile admitted that he and his wife often resort to the using the withdrawal method, it has failed them thrice resulting in three unwanted pregnancies, all of which ended in abortions, he told New Telegraph.

For many adult Nigerian females including married and single women, unplanned pregnancies remain a big problem. Available data show that while some women that ended up with unplanned pregnancies accepted their fate by keeping the pregnancies, some pregnancies ended in abortion, which according to a new global report is reducing in developed countries.

The researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organisation (WHO) accumulated abortion data from nationally representative surveys, official statistics, published and unpublished studies.

The study which analysed worldwide abortion rates between 1990 to 2014 comparing rates in developed and developing nations, revealed that abortion rate falls to all-time low in developed countries because of better access to contraception.

While rates dropped from 46 to 27 per 1,000 women in developed countries with Eastern Europe seeing biggest fall, those in developing countries including Nigeria – where abortions can be unsafe – rates only declined from 39 to 37 per 1,000 in the same period. The researchers concluded that women in poorer countries do not have the same access to contraception as those in developed countries.

The study showed that worldwide, an average of 56 million abortions took place each year from 2010 to 2014, but there was no link between the rate of abortions and the strictness of a country’s abortion laws.

In countries where abortions were legally restricted and performed under unsafe conditions, rates were just as high as in countries where abortions were legal. In fact, researchers suggested that restrictive laws did not actually limit the number of abortions undertaken.

In Nigeria, abortion is illegal but could be done only when the life of a pregnant mother is at risk. Study co-author, Dr. Gilda Sedgh, of the Guttmacher Institute, New York, said: “In developed countries the continued fall in abortion rates is largely due to increased use of modern contraception that has given women greater control over the timing and number of children they want.

“In developing countries however, family planning services do not seem to be keeping up with the increasing desire for smaller families. “More than 80 per cent of unintended pregnancies are experienced by women with an unmet need for modern methods of contraception, and many unwanted pregnancies end in abortion.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 225 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.

According to medical experts, most of the reasons for refusal to use contraceptive products are based on misconceptions, cultural and religious beliefs. Miss Adewunmi Cooker, 29, and graduate bank employee said modern contraceptive use is against her religious belief. Although, she is a Catholic which propagates the natural methods of contraception,her failure to adopt it accordingly five years ago resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.

She ended up with aborting the pregnancy. Similarly, some cultures discourage women, both singles and married to use contraceptive product despite their numerous advantages. For instance, it is erroneously believed that women that use family planning commodities tend to be promiscuous.

However, apart from reducing the need for abortion, especially unsafe abortion, family planning / contraception reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children and prevents deaths of mothers and children by averting unintended pregnancies. Similarly, the WHO promotes family planning as it ensures access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples.

The world body said it is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities. For the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), enabling women and men to plan their families through the usage of modern contraceptive products, results in multiple health, economic and social benefits for families, communities and nations.

Everyday an estimated 800 women lose their lives in pregnancy and childbirth, whereas voluntary family planning could reduce these deaths by 30 per cent and save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five each year, according to USAID.

This could be achieved by enabling women to delay first pregnancy, space later pregnancies at safe intervals, and stop bearing children when they have reached their desired family size.

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