Over half of Nigerian married women aged between 15 and 49 want to avoid pregnancy and plan their families, but, lack access to modern contraception according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). This challenge of non-availability of family planning (FP) supplies in the country’s various health facilities is worsened by the myths and misconceptions about FP which women contend with in their various communities. But, a Reproductive Health/Family Planning, FP, Adviser to Fistula Care Plus, based in Sokoto State, Mrs. Amina Umma Bala in this interview with Chioma Umeha dismisses the myths, declares it number one step out of poverty for couples saying, it gives couples opportunity to delay, space and choose number of children they want. Excerpts:
There are various perceptions and misconception about family planning. For instance, in some communities, it is believed that if a woman uses a method of family planning, she will not be able to get pregnant again, when she wants to.
Well, myth is myth and misconception is misconception. So by myths, you know these are not true. It is rumours that are being spread by people in the community. So no myths or misconception is true. They are just false. For instance, some women say they cannot use family planning as long as they are breastfeeding. They believe that they won’t conceive based on their previous experience. This is very wrong because anything can change at any time. Nobody can rely on that. Just because she didn’t conceive during her previous encounter does not mean that she will not conceive next time. It is a false belief. Women should not rely on this belief. Some women claim they do not want to space their children because of inheritance. Some will tell you that they and their husbands space their children naturally, because they do strenuous work which weakens their sperm. Some will say, ‘I am afraid to resume sexual relationship while breastfeeding, because it may harm my baby. All these are myths. They simply don’t understand what family planning means.
So, what is family Planning?
Family planning is the initiation and use of natural or modern contraceptive methods to delay space or limit future pregnancies. If a woman uses a method of family planning, she will not be able to get pregnant again until when she wants to. There are different types of family planning. These includes ;Lactational Amenorrhea Method, LAM, Pills, Injectables, Condoms, Implants, IUD, Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy.
LAM is a temporary natural, contraceptive method that uses a pattern of breastfeeding to suppress ovulation and prevent pregnancy. It has more than 98 per cent contraceptive effectiveness and it is provided and controlled by the woman. It is also important for breastfeeding mothers to use contraceptive methods that have no effect on breastfeeding for a breastfeeding baby and mother.
How safe is FP?
Family planning is safe only that there is individual difference in using family planning. The way one individual tolerates family planning is different from another individual’s tolerance to FP. There are some people that can use family planning without showing any sign of adverse effect and there are some women that you can notice very easily that they are having challenges with that particular method.
What is the success rate?
All the family planning methods have its own efficacy. Some are 97 per cent effective; some are between 85 and 93 per cent. Every method has its own efficacy, none of them is 100 per cent reliable and what we mean by that is in 100 women using that method seven women can become pregnant after using that method consistently and effectively.
At what age should a girl adopt family planning?
As soon as that girl is matured, what I mean by matured is at least if the girl is 18 years, she has the right to access family planning. As long as a woman is of age, whether married or not married, she has the right to walk into family planning unit because we have to weigh the implication of not allowing them to access family planning. We have to weigh the risk. What about if they become pregnant and they are not married? So we have to weigh the risk. We are talking about 18 because she can decide on her own. If she is less than 18, the provider should always look for somebody, like the mother or a relation that can verify on her behalf. But, once she is 18 she can just walk in and have it.
Can you describe the link between family planning and obstetric fistula?
Family planning is one of the strategy that is used to prevent the occurrence of fistula, in the sense that when you use family planning it allows one to prevent unwanted pregnancy and it is only when you are pregnant that you would have prolong obstructed labour during delivery and you will also have fistula. So if you didn’t even allow the pregnancy to occur, you won’t have fistula. That is one of the ways you can use family planning to prevent the occurrence of fistula.
What have been the responses of Sokoto women to FP?
Oh, fantastic, we recently conducted an outreach section, and I was highly impressed honestly with the way people were turning out from every corner, coming to access family planning. Some were even fighting to get it. And what surprised me most is they go for the long acting and permanent methods.
What are the benefits?
For the nation; reliable contraception is an extremely good value because it enables people to avoid pregnancy long enough to enter gainful employment and stable family relationships without depending on public assistance. For families, it gives couples the ability to choose the number and spacing of their children. It also ensures healthy spacing of pregnancy, increase chances of healthy outcomes for both mother and baby. Also, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy improves the health of the mother and reduces infant, newborn and child deaths. It reduces the chance of problems during the next pregnancy and allows mothers to breastfeed for two full years.
What is your advice to husbands?
My advice is let our men think it over again. Let us see FP in a different perspective not the previous knowledge or explanation about FP. Family planning is just saying we should plan our family for better health, family health and better community health. We are just saying or telling mothers to space their family at least not less than two years apart. The problem of family planning lies in the men, because men involvement that is where we always have problems. We want our men to understand and share this burden together with their women. Let them understand the concept of family planning, because it is for their own good, the family good, not just the woman’s good. They should understand that it should be a collective responsibility between couples.