Surrounded by several myths and misconceptions, family planning has been in existence since the 16th century when women were admonished to space their children for a healthier and better lifestyle.
No doubt, the concept of family planning has become a household name in the last decade due to several advocacy programmes and awareness creations.
Family planning involves the practice of controlling the number of children one has and the intervals between their births, particularly by means of contraception or voluntary sterilisation.
However, it comes in two major categories, the traditional methods and the modern contraceptives, which are most times used interchangeably for the term family planning itself.
While the traditional methods of family planning include the basal body temperature method, symptom-thermal method and calendar-rhythm method, and withdrawal, the modern contraceptive methods include pills, female and male sterilisation(vasectomy for men and tubal ligation for women), intrauterine device (IUD), injectables, implants, male and female condoms, diaphragm, and emergency contraception (post pills, postinor).
But medical researchers have disclosed that the traditional methods are only between 76% and 78% effective, while modern contraceptives are about 99% effective if used properly.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of women desiring to use family planning has increased over the past two decades, from 900 million in the year 2000 to nearly 1.1 billion in 2020, and the number of women using a modern contraceptive method increased from 663 million to 851 million.
However, contraceptive use in Nigeria, according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), has been consistently low despite its many benefits and several efforts by government and development partners to increase its uptake.
The NDHS survey indicates that the use of any modern method staggeringly increased from 4 to 12% over 28 years between 1990 and 2018.
The Press Nigeria understands that many factors have, however, been identified to cause the snail pace acceptance of modern contraceptives in the country.
The WHO explains that embracing modern contraceptive family planning methods is a cost-effective means of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality as well as achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) 1 -3, which are no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being.
Speaking with one of the matrons in charge of the family planning unit of Isolo general hospital, she said there are so many myths and misconceptions about embracing the modern methods of contraceptives.
Highlighting some of the misconceptions, the matron, who pleaded anonymity, told our reporter that religious beliefs bind some women while others rely on hearsay about the alleged possible effects of the various methods of modern contraceptives.
According to the matron, apart from the fact that some religions don’t believe in it, most women are influenced by peer influence and want to use the same methods as friends or family, which doesn’t work like that.
The matron noted that ‘‘Family planning is not something you can jump to; some health history needs to be considered, especially with women with underlying health issues. Each person’s medical history will depend on the method to be recommended.”
She also said many people fail to understand that most of the modern contraceptives, like pills, injectables, and implants, are hormonal, as they work through the release of hormones like progesterone in the body, which intend to distort the reproductive process.
She cited that women of big sizes and those who have high blood pressure might not be placed on certain methods like pills, stressing it is essential to talk to a health worker before taking any step.
Stating some of the side effects, she said it ranged from headaches, mood swings, fever flashes, bleeding or spotting in between periods, and nausea depending on the individual, while some don’t experience side effects at all.
The health worker, however, noted that even though almost all the methods give a 99% guarantee of safety, no contraceptive is 100% reliable because one in every 100 women would get pregnant.
Meanwhile, interacting with some of the women who were at the clinic, The Press Nigeria gathered that while some had good experiences with the methods recommended for them, others complained.
One of the women said she had been on an injectable for four years, and she walks in to take it every three months with no side effects, but her husband doesn’t know because he wasn’t in support.
Another said she knew a friend who was using an implant and still got pregnant, and one also said she was doing fine on the same implant method. Apparently, she had been using it for two years and had come for a check-up.
But our reporter spoke to a particular lady who sounded so disappointed and had come to remove her own implant.
In her narration, she said she regretted not listening to her friend about six months ago when she got her implant fixed. She complained of nonstop bleeding for two weeks, so she had come to remove it.
Meanwhile, The Press Nigeria learned from one Mrs Jadesola Oyedepo, who is a customer care official of a third-party private family planning consulting firm, that most of the complaints and enquiries people call to give are about the effects.
Oyedepo said most effects of hormonal contraceptives are similar, adding that it is because of all the fears and hearsay that women are advised to visit a clinic instead of jumping on any contraceptive method.
She dismissed the notion that modern contraceptives cause weight gain, cancer and all sorts of ailments saying they are all just myths and misconceptions.
Speaking further, Oyedepo corroborated the matron’s point saying side effects range from dizziness, spotting of blood, and bleeding in between menstrual periods and that the severity of side effects differs in individuals.
She submitted that ”When you are on family planning, you can’t live life anyhow; you need to watch many things because of hormones, eat healthily and exercise. Watch your food. Eat properly and live healthy. And if you don’t want anything hormonal, the condom is a good non-hormonal method too, and they come in different variants now.”