According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), up to 225 million women, most of whom are Africans require family planning but are not on any form of it. If they had access to modern methods of family planning, as many as 24 million abortions, 6 million miscarriages, 70000 maternal deaths and 500000 infant deaths could have been prevented.
Family planning, otherwise known as contraception refers to the diverse methods and techniques whereby couples can determine the number of children they want to have and when. Countries such as China and India have been able to cut their population growth rate and improve the standard of living of citizens by introducing stiff family planning measures. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, limited access as well as diverse religious and traditional beliefs have hampered the practice of family planning.
In this article, we will take a look at various family planning options and the benefits derivable from them.
1. Condoms Lower the risk of HIV and other STIs
Apart from providing contraception and preventing unwanted pregnancies by serving as a mechanical barrier between sperm and eggs, condoms, when correctly and consistently used can also reduce your risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. Condoms achieve this by preventing contact between the skin and infected body fluids as long as there is no slippage or breakage.
2. Combined oral contraceptive pills (COCs) offer significant protection from cancers
These pills are usually made up of oestrogen and progestogen components in order to prevent ovulation by inhibiting the follicle stimulating and luteinizing hormones. Most formulations contain 21 hormonally active pills followed by 7 placebo pills to facilitate consistent daily intake throughout a 28-day menstrual cycle. Oral contraceptive pills prevent benign breast disease, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and functional cysts. In addition, the use of COCs has been associated with a 50% risk reduction for endometrial adenocarcinoma. They also provide protection against ovarian cancers.
3. Contraceptive implants are also available
For women who are breastfeeding or have challenges with complying with oral tablets or injections, contraceptive implants are a suitable option. For instance, implanon is a single-rod implant that can be inserted underneath the skin where it then releases 68mg of etonogestrel slowly at a predetermined rate over a period of 3 years. Throughout this period, contraception is reliably provided without any further need to swallow pills or receive intramuscular injections. Plus, once the rod is removed after 3 years, return to fertility is usually dramatic within 3 weeks.
4. Consistent breastfeeding provides natural contraception
Not many mothers are aware that consistent and exclusive breastfeeding of their babies during the first six months of life is a form of natural contraception. It is referred to as the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM) and it prevents the cyclical release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). Little wonder most mothers do not menstruate while exclusively breastfeeding their babies. Therefore, breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and baby since it not only promotes bonding between them but also provides contraception at no extra cost to the mother.
5. Family planning reduces maternal and child mortality
Family planning has achieved tremendous results in reducing the maternal and childhood mortality rates globally. For instance, it has been discovered that a woman who has more than 4 children (grandmultiparity) stands a higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. Similarly, the use of contraceptives has reduced the incidence of unwanted pregnancies among teenagers especially girls less than 18 years who are more likely to suffer adverse events like prolonged obstructed labour and unsafe abortions during pregnancy and delivery. Evidently, obstructed labour and abortions are leading causes of maternal mortality. In the same vein, such under-age girls are more likely to deliver preterm or low birth weight babies who have less chances of survival.
6. Family planning prevents unwanted pregnancies among HIV positive women
One of the major strategies adopted for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT) is the prevention of unwanted pregnancies among women that have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Such women are adequately counselled on the numerous available family planning techniques and assisted in making the best choice for them so that they can only get pregnant when they are ready to do so. Even then, they are placed on antiretroviral drugs to protect the foetus. Undoubtedly, this has reduced the incidence of paediatric HIV/AIDS among newborns in our society.
In conclusion, it is obvious that a wide range of family planning options are available nowadays with their potential benefits. The onus lies on you to consult your healthcare giver who can help you make the best choice tailored towards meeting your own unique needs.
photo credit: www.champions4choice.org