Family planning refers to the various contraceptive methods that enable couples produce the desired number of children and determine the spacing between them. Globally, in the understanding of the potential benefits of family planning, many societies have embraced modern methods of contraception especially in Asia and Latin America. However, the practice of family planning in sub-Saharan Africa remains relatively low owing to several factors ranging from limited access to family planning services to unfavourable cultural and religious beliefs. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), it is rather unfortunate that up to 225 million women, majority of whom are in Africa have an unmet need for contraception and if all of them were able to use modern methods of contraception, an additional 24 million abortions, 6 million miscarriages, 70000 maternal deaths and 500000 infant deaths would have been averted. Highlighted below are few facts you probably never knew about contraception and family planning
1. 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.
2. Condoms can decrease the transmission of HIV and other STIs
Apart from being a modern contraceptive method, it’s also an established fact that correct and consistent use of condoms helps to reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis and gonorrhoea. During sexual intercourse, condoms prevent contact with infected blood or body secretions. However, a slight risk still exists due to the possibility of slippage or breakage of the condom.
3. Reduces maternal and child death rates
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.
4. Different family planning options are available
Depending on your specific needs, your healthcare giver will counsel you adequately and help you make an informed choice from the plethora of available contraceptive options. While some are oral pills you need to swallow daily, others are in the form of injectables or intradermal implants buried underneath the skin. Intradermal implants like Jadelle can provide contraception for up to 3 to 5 years. Furthermore, intrauterine contraceptive devices like Copper T can be inserted into the uterus through the vagina and last for up to ten years before being replaced. They are equally good for emergency contraception when inserted within 3 to 5 days of an unprotected sexual intercourse. Note that some of these methods are sometimes associated with irregular menstrual flow, although this is often not harmful.
5. Consistent breastfeeding is a natural form of contraception
A good number of people are not aware that correct and consistent breastfeeding prevents the release of eggs from the ovary (ovulation), thereby providing natural contraception. This is referred to as the lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM) and it is usually more effective when the mother exclusively breastfeeds the baby day and night during the first 6 months of life.
6. Combined oral contraceptive pills containing both oestrogen and progestogen have been shown to reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers
7. Empowers the couple and enhances child education
Family planning effectively creates an avenue for the couple to decide how many kids they want and when they like to have the kids. By implication, they are in a better position to raise the number of children they can adequately cater for within the limits of available resources. They can provide the best of education, nutrition and family support that every growing child needs for rounded development. Even the woman can further her education to the desired level without being truncated by unwanted pregnancy. All of this makes for a better society of our dreams where endemic poverty and illiteracy have been eradicated.