A Reproductive Health and Family Planning Advisor with Engender Health, Dr. Jumoke Adekogba, speaks to Chioma Obinna, on the importance of family planning and why it is safe for every woman. Excerpts: Family Planning is the initiation and use of natural or modern contraceptive methods to delay, space or limit future pregnancies. It gives couples the ability to choose the number and space births of their children. Healthy spacing of pregnancies increase healthy outcomes for mother and baby. Family planning methods are safe for all women especially with the right criteria.
This is why we have the eligibility criteria. Before a woman is given family planning, her condition must be measured with the method of her choice and if she is eligible, she can be given. But if she has any medical condition that makes her not to be eligible for that method, she is re-counseled to make another choice. A proficient provider is eligible to do all the checks for the woman before a method of her choice is given. A woman must have adequate information of all the methods before she can make a choice of her own.
Effects of rapid population growth
Among other factors, rapid population growth has affected the quality of life and made achievement of socio-economic development goals difficult.
Let’s look at why. First, when a couple has approximately five children per women, you see how quickly the population explodes. In two generations here, if each of the five children have five children, there will be 25 grandchildren; and in one more generation, they will be up to 125 people. So, if you have high fertility, a couple can produce 155 offspring in just four generations. Remember, this example represents even lower fertility than Nigeria that has 5.7 children per woman.
Prevention, treatment of Obstetric Fistula
Family planning is a strategy to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Fistula is morbidity and can be prevented and treated with it. A woman that is not pregnant cannot have fistula. Too early, too soon, too many and too frequent pregnancies can be checked by family planning and these can results to fistula.
A woman that has been repaired of fistula will have to wait six months before resuming sexual intercourse and she still have to wait for another six months before becoming pregnant and for the six months she has to be on contraceptives. That will give her good healing and recovering and will be in perfect health before being pregnant.
Contraceptive rate in Nigeria
When you talk about contraceptive prevalence rate we are moving because before now, women used to be ashamed to talk about family planning, now we see many women in the communities talk about it openly. They will boldly tell you at least three methods. And if you can have such in the communities, it means the acceptance is much better than what we have before.
Good for single ladies
Once a child is sexually active, she has the right for family planning to prevent unwanted pregnancy which can lead to abortion or disability. The awareness is greater now, even in the higher institution where sexually active girls can go on contraceptives. The methods do not prevent sexually transmitted infections and HIV. We let them know this during counselling that methods can only prevent pregnancy and we encourage them to use a multiple barrier if they are at risk of getting infections.
Fertility and development
Fertility decline helps many families out of poverty. At the family level, having fewer mouths to feed could help to reduce poverty and free more money to educate or help each child. In economic terms, fertility decline and thus slower population growth creates. It has potential to increase the rate of economic growth and a path out of poverty for many families. In Nigeria, more than 6 in 10 births fall in at least one of the high risk categories.
Types of modern Family Planning methods
There is the hormonal method; Intra-uterine Contraceptive Devices (IUCD) which is inserted 48 hours or four weeks after delivery. This can last 12 years. It is safe for women who are breastfeeding. Some side effects include bleeding or spotting after insertion. Others are the barrier methods, natural family planning, and Voluntary Surgical Contraception. Unfortunately, many of these methods are underutilised due to lack of access, knowledge, myths and misconceptions, lack of awareness, gender and socio- cultural norms and provider bias.
It ensures healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. It improves the health of the mother and the child, reduces the chance that newborns, infants and children will die under five years of age. It gives couples time to prepare for the next pregnancy, reduces the chance of problems during the next pregnancy. Further, it allows mothers to breastfeed for two full years and helps each co-wife to have healthy and productive children.