Monday, August 15, 2022

Misconceptions bedevil acceptance of modern family planning in Lagos community

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“I do not use it o! I hear that it makes people grow extra fat and make their belly big. Some have prolonged menstruation for months by using these new family planning methods. I cannot use it o! I cannot become old before my time”, 42 years old Mama Karimot of Ijede Community said.

This is the stand of majority of the women in Ijede Community of Ikorodu local government area of Lagos state on the use of modern contraceptive.

The fear of using these contraceptives goes with information they had gotten from family and friends or experiences they had seen people had as a result of the side effects of the use of modern ways of family planning methods.

These people are concurrently being fed with misinformation about family planning as they tend to go with the myths and misconceptions regarding the use of family planning methods.

Nigeria’s 2018 demographic health survey showed that this isn’t the case. About 85% of women and 95% of men reported knowing a contraceptive method. But just 15% use contraception for limiting and spacing of birth.

Meanwhile, on average, a Nigerian woman or man aged 15-49 knows about 5 out of the 15 methods of contraceptives while a Nigerian woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime.

A visit to Ijede local Council Development Area, LCDA revealed this high trend of misinformation especially on misconceptions regarding use of modern contraceptives.

The most common methods cited by women interviewed was the pill, about 71 per cent knows of this while the most common method cited by the male was the male condom which is being used by over 60 per cent of the men interviewed in Ijede.

Among the least known methods by both men and women was the long acting reversible implants method which can last between three to five years for women who use it.

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Speaking to Mama Karimot who has 7 children with her first child being 30 years and last child 3 years, she said she uses the old method of contraceptive which “is to urinate after meeting with her husband”.

This method, according to her, has worked for the past 30 years since she had been using it, “After meeting with my husband, I go out immediately to urinate, this has helped in spacing my child. It works for me in spacing my child. My first child is 30 years while this one”, pointing to a three year old child close to her, “is three years old and I have never used pill or injection or other family planning methods”, she said in Yoruba.

This statement was further echoed by Mosurant Adegbesan, a tailor who said that although she is not a fan of having too many children, she still does not subscribe to the use of modern contraceptive usage.

“I hear of some people having bad effects from using these drugs. I had an Apprentice who bled for three months non-stop when she started using the implant. She had to remove the implant before the bleeding stopped.

“I do not use any of it because I still want to look beautiful for my husband. Imagine you bleeding for months or growing fat, your husband will look elsewhere because you will not have time to take care of yourself and look beautiful. I want to look very beautiful for my husband.

“I advocate for having few children which can be done with understanding with your husband. In Nigeria of today, having many children will be problematic as it would be difficult to cater for and control the children.”

However, while about 85 per cent of women do not subscribe to the modern way of family planning, a lot of men ascribed to the modern method of family planning.

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Mr. Ibraheem Ayuba said his wife is currently on a modern method of contraceptive which involved the usage of Intra uterine device, IUD to prevent her from giving birth.

“I decided to use the intra uterine device, IUD that lasts for five to six years because of the economic situation of the country but when I was a bit buoyant two years ago, I took my wife back to the hospital and the IUD was removed after which she gave birth some months later.

“I advise everyone to use these modern way of contraceptive especially as it is free and the doctor will give you the one that best suits you. It is good because having many children these days will not help in any way.”

The efforts of the Health Workers in the community may only be producing the desired results on the men as the women still have a long way in believing that these modern means of contraceptive has positive effects.

The Head Nurse of the Primary Health Center in Ijede, Nurse Alabi said she and her colleagues are always at hand to convince the women in accepting these family planning methods as they are willing to use it but are put away by fears and what their peers tell them.

“The means of information in this community is usually from mouth to mouth. The women follow whatever they are told by family and friends.

“We play our part by sensitizing them during community outreaches and when they come to the hospital for treatment but they are still scared of using these products because of the side effects that they have seen others experience.

“I usually educate them that not everybody’s body is the same. When they come here, we carry out series of tests to know which one suits them most. Even if there are side effects, it will not last long”, Nurse Alabi stated.

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Ijede community still has a long way to go in bridging the gap in the knowledge of the use of modern contraceptive, massive sensitization and advocacy is needed to convince that’s women to divert from the traditional methods of child spacing to the modern and proven methods of child spacing.

Statistics have shown that acceptable contraceptive prevalence will avert 2,500 maternal deaths, 90,000 abortions, 250,000 unintended pregnancies and 10,000 under one year old deaths within 2018 to 2020.

Acceptance of contraceptive prevalence will create demographic dividend that would boost economic growth and breakout from the cycle of poverty.

If the community of Ijede with about 1.6 million population, according to Wikipedia, continues with the current trend in contraceptive use, the population will continue to grow exponentially in the next 10 to 20 years.

The consequences of this will be profound as the population will be a highly dependent one with few productive and more dependent people because of the age structure of exponential population growth.

It would also worsen the access to healthcare as the already limited infrastructure will be stretched while service provision would shrink leading to further social and economic challenges.

While Nigeria needs to urgently rethink its way of introducing family planning programmes, the people of Ijede need special focus especially in ensuring that people know more about the array of available contraceptives, the most effective types and how they can access them.

Massive sensitization and advocacy would go a long way in reducing the perceptions based on myths and misconceptions. Only a concerted effort can turn the situation around in Ijede Local Council Development Area and narrow the existing knowledge gap.

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