When you hear the word family planning, whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the first thing that comes to mind? Banja La Mtsogolo? Contraceptive pills? Depo provera? Meant only for married couples or for people at a certain age? Something that is supposed to be taken care of by women alone, because it is such a trivial matter; one that has little to do with major issues such as development, education and the environment?
How many of you, upon approaching your local healthcare provider for family planning methods, are not reliably informed on the pros and cons of each family planning method before being advised on the method best suited to you based on your age, the number of children you have , your fertility and your overall health?
During one of the Every Woman meetings I had with a large group of women last year, everyone present complained of the fact that, after giving birth, medical personnel at their health care providers did not give them adequate information on contraceptives.
They yearned to understand what was going into their bodies and what effects these contraceptives would have, but did not know where to seek such information. Some said nurses at certain hospitals simply advised them against each method without stating why. Most felt clueless and at a loss on where to start.
I was reminded of this during a media training and advocacy workshop on family planning organised by the Centre For Reproductive Health (CRH), College of Medicine which I attended this week.
Family planning, it seems, is not given as much time and attention as other health areas, evidenced by the fact that a lot of the material the country gets on family planning is supplied by donors.
According to statistics, only 41 percent of women in the country are on family planning methods. Twenty eight out of the 59 percent that are not using any form of contraceptive say that they would like to do so, but lack access to family planning services.
Some of the adverse effects of this are; a high maternal mortality rates (807 out of 100 000 births), teenage pregnancies which end up in illegal abortions, obstructed labour or numerous complications and overstretching of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s resources due to rapid population growth.
Family planning is in fact tied to all eight Millennium Development Goals; eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV and Aids, Malaria and other infectious diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and finally, developing a global partnership for development.
In a bid to further this cause, for the next couple of weeks, our health section will focus on all you need to know about the different family planning methods available in Malawi so that you are empowered to make informed choices.
We hope this helps in changing your perception and that of those close to you, on the importance of family planning.