Rachael Okhide, an indigene of Esan in Edo State had barely marked her 14th birthday when she missed her monthly menstruation. That showed she became sexually active at a young age without using contraceptives.
From the first time Rachael experienced her first menstruation at the age of 12, she had heard so much about family planning from her peer group, many of whom were equally sexually active. While some Nigerians may frown that teenage girls like Rachael get sexually active at very young age, it is no longer news that early initiation of sexual intercourse in the country occurs at the age of 10.
Also, data from the National Reproductive Health Survey (NARHS 2014) shows that most sexually active adolescents do not practise contraception, a consequence of increasing unplanned pregnancy and illegal abortion, of which 13 per cent occurrence contributes to the current maternal mortality.
Obviously, this indicates urgent need for interventions to curb unplanned pregnancy among teenagers, including increased uptake of family planning among women of reproductive ages of between 15 and 49 years.
However, studies have shown that myths and misconceptions about family planning discourages its usage. It is common to hear that people who use contraceptives end up with health problems. Other fallacies are, family planning can harm the womb of women; Contraception results in infertility and results in bloated stomach for women, among others. The Guttmacher Institute makes it clear that negative myths and misconceptions about family planning are a barrier to modern contraceptive use.
Notwithstanding, rumours about different methods of family planning persist because people do not have the correct information about various family planning methods and their benefits.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines family planning as something that “allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods.
On whether family planning can result in infertility, health experts have debunked the claim, saying birth control pill does not hurt future fertility, nor does it cause infertility. Similarly, contrary to the misinformation that family planning could damage the health of women, the WHO has described family planning as a life-saver of women that use it correctly. For instance, Nigeria has a maternal mortality ratio of 814 per 100,000 life-birth as at 2015 and contributed about 19 per cent of all maternal death globally (NDHS 2018). Also, adolescents aged from 15 to 19 years contribute about 10 per cent of maternal deaths each year. Furthermore, pregnancy related complications are the leading cause of deaths among young women aged from 15 to 19 years.
However, the NDHS, states that effective family planning can prevent at least 34 per cent maternal deaths. Other benefits of family planning include, prevention of pregnancy-related health risks in women, reduction of adolescent pregnancies, among others. To this end, a consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist. Dr. Habeeb Salami, said every pro-active government should embrace the scaling up of family planning services as one of the maternal survival strategies. He said the provision of adequate funding and their timely release would ensure the availability of family planning products in several communities where clients need them.
In addition, Habeeb said there should also be trained providers to provide correct and factual information about products and to address challenges arising from family planning. The aim is to increase service uptake, which is necessary given the situation in the country.
Currently, data from the NDHS 2018, shows that a Nigerian woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime. Consequently, using family planning could help them reduce the number of kids to economically manageable size; to space the births and curb excessive population growth.
With the current Contraceptvr(CPR) of 17 per cent (NDHS 2018), which is considered to be poor, medical experts said improving family planning uptake could put Nigeria on the path to achieve its new goal of achieve 27 per cent modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR), which is part of its family planning 2020 commitment.