By Jessie Ngoma-Simengaw –
MANY women in Zambia still have doubts over certain methods of contraceptives because of lack of information.
There are also plain falsehoods around some contraceptives which make some women fail to make better decisions over their well-being.
The World Health Organisation states that 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method.
This is despite access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights being a basic human right.
Human rights of women include their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health.
However, the use of modern contraceptives has continued to be low in sub-Saharan Africa despite the different methods that are available.
The Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ) notes that women make decisions based on information they receive from health providers.
PPAZ acting director of programmes, Daniel Sambo explains that there is a wide range of contraceptives that women could choose from in order to prevent conception.
Family planning enables women to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
Furthermore, it prevents unintended pregnancies, including those of older women who face increased risks related to pregnancy.
It is important to note that family planning enables women who wish to limit the size of their families to do so.
Some of the short-term methods include oral contraception pills taken every day – and used by women only – and injectable contraceptives.
Both female and male condoms are readily available and accessible to prevent conception.
Some long-term methods include Norplant, an intra-uterine device (IUD). This is a plastic device, also referred to as the loop, and is fitted inside the uterus. Most IUDs have copper wire wrapped around the plastic.
According to research, a woman’s ability to choose if and when to become pregnant has a direct impact on her health and well-being.
Family planning allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women at increased risk of health problems and death from early childbearing.
The permanent methods of contraceptives include tubal ligation, which is the tying up of tubes, and vasectomy for men.
“Vasectomy is a medical operation to remove part of each of the tubes in a man’s body that carry sperms, after which he is not able to make a woman pregnant,” Mr Sambo explained.
One of the unused forms of contraception that is readily available in all health centres in Zambia is the IUD because of little information about it.
The misconception around the use of the IUD has contributed to most women not using it.
Some women feel that having something inserted in their uterus is not a “comfortable” idea.
Others have been made to believe that inserting the loop in the uterus is a health hazard as it causes cancer.
Yet, others still contend that once inserted in the uterus, the loop cannot be removed.
But Mr Sambo said the IUD is in a group of contraceptives that could reverse the effect unlike the permanent methods.
He also bemoaned the low involvement of men in family planning.
“Many women have influence on a couple’s decision to have a child, but they don’t have enough information or control over the final outcome,” Mr Sambo said.
He adds that continued sensitisation will assist in having more men support family planning as they will be supporters and partakers.
While women visit health centres for family planning information and services, over-the-counter condoms are available in most places frequented by men.
The limited choice of contraception methods available for young and unmarried people has also contributed to the crisis.
Some clinics only offer one or two modern methods of contraceptives and not the others such as the IUD, which some clients prefer.
But according to Mr Sambo, the Government has trained a number of health workers placed in health centres to insert the loop in women who decide to use this method of family planning.
Despite widespread evidence that many unmarried adolescents are sexually active, the United Nations Population Fund observes that most of them face challenges when it comes to family planning as they do not have the right information.
Some adolescents shun family planning clinics because of fear of being asked whether or not they are married, and why they are seeking such information when their age is considered inappropriate.
“It is important that family planning is widely available and easily accessible through midwives and other trained health workers to anyone who is sexually active.
“Apart from giving an opportunity to women to pursue their personal development, the health benefits are plentiful in families that promote family planning,” Mr Sambo said.
The loop has another advantage over other contraceptives as it is suitable for women who may be receiving any kind of medication.
In addition, even women who have had challenges with contraceptives that contain estrogen could opt for the loop.
The Government’s support for family planning has grown remarkably, while the training of more midwives to insert the loop in health centres is a great achievement.
However, women need to get more information on reproductive health services for them to make better choices.