Hundreds of Nigerian women are lost daily to maternal deaths, currently estimated at 576 per 100,000 live births (lv). This is according to the 2013 Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS). It is no longer news that some men have been blamed for many of such deaths, occasioned by lack of quick intervention that could have turned the tide. But the news is that male involvement in the reproductive health of women with particular reference to family planning decisions and activities can go a long way to achieve good outcomes.
Experiences from spousal relationships show that male involvement in decisions on family planning helps the couple, not only in accepting contraceptives, but also its effective use and continuation.
Often due to cultural practices, most women in spousal relationships, shy away from taking decisions on embracing family planning, which is a voluntary measure that allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children, the spacing and timing of the births, all of which are achieved through the use of contraceptive methods.
As simple as the decision on whether to use contraceptives or not may seem, being in a relationship could make it difficult to arrive at. The major reason is that in marital/spousal relationship, it is no longer about the self but about the two partners in a union. What this means is that the decision to embrace family planning involves the man and his wife and in the case of non-marital union, it’s about a spouse and his partner.
Against this background, any decision that leaves out one’s spouse may end up not carrying the other partner in the union along. According to a 1997 study on Family Planning published in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there was tendency to assume that men were opposed to family planning and will, if involved in reproductive decision making, prevent women from regulating their fertility.
On the contrary, data from the study suggests that the most successful family planning programmes target men as well as women and promote communication about contraception between spouses.
The authors, Karra MV and others examined fertility decision-making across five generations in the participants including 77 male and 101 female and found that men were significantly involved in family planning over several generations.
Similarly, the research showed that indeed, fertility levels dropped during the periods of greatest male involvement and resulted in fertility decline and long-term benefits for women.
Although, traditional notions that the roles of males in families, together with economic concerns, shape fertility decisions, it is noteworthy to state that family planning is also vital to safe motherhood, healthy families and prosperous communities.
Previous studies have affirmed that family planning can prevent at least 34 per cent of maternal deaths, according to studies.
However, making a success of it would depend on the clients’ ability to adhere to the expert advice and counselling with regard to the family planning method to choose from including long-acting reversible contraception, such as the implant or intra uterine device (IUD), hormonal contraception, such the pill or the Depo Provera injection, barrier methods, such as condoms, emergency contraception, among others.
Clarifying why the choice is necessary, a physician with specialty in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr. Salami Habeeb said, “Family planning services are such medical services that are personal. What is good for you might not be good for the next person.”
He reasoned that clients shouldn’t just go anywhere to access the services. “It is during counselling that trained providers will identify the one that is good for each person.”
Sometimes, complaints could arise with regard to clients that experience side effects, discomfort, among others, but when users face such ordeals, returning to the same provider that administered the contraceptive, was key in tackling the associated challenges, he said.
It’s also known that at times such as those highlighted above, male involvement in seeking common solutions result in expected outcomes.
It is well documented that men’s general knowledge and attitude concerning family size, gender preference of children, ideal spacing between child births, and contraceptive methods used, greatly influence women’s preferences and opinions. That is why when the male involvement is active; it helps to chart the course for both partners to achieve success in the uptake of family planning services.
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