By The Society For Media Advocacy On Health, Nigeria.
Recently, Austine Ohenhen, a man who fled his home in Benin, Edo State, on hearing that his wife, Rita, had given birth to a set of quadruplets blamed the current economic situation in the country for his action.
Austin and his wife, Rita already had five children before the arrival of the quadruplets. The former engineer now turned farmer told the media that he did not have the money to take up the huge additional responsibilities the birth of the new babies would put on him.
Indeed, this large number of children belonging to one citizen with meagre income in a country with exponential population growth is of concern. Assuming Austin deliberately planned to have nine children and so executed the plan, it would not be a problem to him as he had the children by choice. Pregnancy and child birth by chance pose huge risks to couples, families, and the society. Thanks to family planning. Its services support people’s decisions about when, or if, they would like to have children by offering education, counselling, and birth control methods.
Having children by chance is one of the challenges resulting from unplanned and unintended pregnancies, which is currently plaguing the Nigerian society.
Unplanned pregnancies contribute largely to both maternal and child mortality. Further, high-risk sexual behaviour among young people is responsible for the increasing teenage pregnancy, out-of-school girls, baby dumping, post abortion complication, and death, according to statistics.
An estimated 1.25 million induced abortions occurred in Nigeria in 2012, equivalent to a rate of 33 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute.
The estimated unintended pregnancy rate was 59 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49. While 56 percent of unintended pregnancies in the country were resolved by abortion, about 212,000 women were treated for complications of unsafe abortion, which contributed 13 percent of maternal death in the country.
However, through the opportunities which family planning offers to clients, deaths arising from abortions are preventable. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines family planning as a process 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 the use of contraceptive methods.
Family planning saves lives; it is also vital to safe motherhood, healthy families, and prosperous communities.
Pregnancies that are too early, too close, too late, or too many carry extra hazards not only for the health of the woman but also for the child, and embracing, family planning has been shown to prevent unintended pregnancies.
Available data show that every day about 111 women and girls in Nigeria die due to preventable pregnancy and child birth related complications (every hour five women die).
Besides, Nigeria accounts for one in nine maternal deaths worldwide. But, research shows that 30 percent of such deaths could be prevented by increasing access to and uptake of family planning services.
The use of family planning paves the way for mothers and babies to be healthier because risky pregnancies are avoided. Besides, fewer children mean more food for each child.
Other benefits that accrue to users of family planning include the reduction of maternal mortality, enabling birth spacing while reducing the hazards of frailty associated with close births, averting chances of abortion complications and reducing abortions.
Similarly, family planning can also help couples enjoy sex more, because spouses are not afraid of unwanted pregnancy.
In addition, using contraception could protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, and provide other health benefits.
Furthermore, pregnancies and child birth by choice and not chance advances individuals’ rights to decide their own family size.
Also, pregnancies and child births by choice and not by chance improve women’s opportunities for education, employment, and full growth at the family, community, and national levels.
Although there is no single answer to the population explosion challenges facing the nation, it is clear that the population needs to be balanced with the amount of land available to feed and house Nigerian citizenry.
By reducing the birth rate and slowing population growth, family planning would improve the health of Nigerians, especially children and mothers, in addition to providing significant socio-economic benefits.
Beyond obvious societal benefits, pregnancies and child birth by choice and not chance has incredible health benefits for mothers and children.
According to a USAID-supported Demographic and Health Survey report, if all women waited three years to conceive after the birth of a child, 25 percent of all deaths of children under five could be avoided.
Saving the lives of mothers and children is now a public health emergency and Nigeria can achieve this by promoting the use of family planning.