Nigerian women using various family planning methods are sharing their experiences of battling the myths and misconceptions surrounding their use with PUNCH HealthWise.
The women noted that despite gaining weight, they are happy to have the number of children that they and their husbands can cater to.
Mrs. Deborah Babawale, who is using the injectable family planning method shares:
“I never knew that things will be so hard in Nigeria today. I thank God my husband and I embraced family planning 10 years ago and stopped at three children.”
The 38-year-old trader whose husband is a bus driver said she ignored all the myths and misconceptions surrounding family planning and chose the method that suits her for her good and the good of her family.
According to her, her decision and choice 10 years ago to embrace family planning are paying off as she and her husband can take care of their three children.
Further sharing her experience, Deborah said though using contraceptives made her slightly gain weight, that remains inconsequential to her citing the benefits of having a small family, especially with the current economic situation in the country.
“I had my third and last baby who is now 10 years on March 10, 2013. I gave birth to my first baby in 2010 and the second one in 2011. There was no space between them which I blamed on ignorance. But there was a space between my second and third baby.
I come from a large family. My mother gave birth to eight of us. I am the fifth child. My mother, who is late now, was a petty trader and my late father was a painter.
So, they struggled to feed us and were only able to train some of us up to secondary school level because of poverty. They told us that they had no money for our university education. That was how I was unable to get a university education.
After several efforts to get my uncles’ support to sponsor me failed, I vowed that I will never have plenty of children like my parents.”
Poverty denied me tertiary education
The Oyo State indigene told our correspondent that if she had had the privilege of tertiary education, she would have studied law and would have been better off than selling kitchen utensils on the Island.
The businesswoman said:
“I like the law profession a lot because I love justice and equity. My uncles failed to train me in the university and trained only their children because they said they were not the ones that told my parents to have the number of children that they could not take care of.”
On how she was able to achieve her aim of having fewer children, the mother of three narrated,
“Luckily, when I got married in 2010 and I discussed with my husband that we should have only three children and he agreed because he too had a similar experience like me.
“They are 11 in their family. So, after my last baby in 2013, I told some of my friends and aunties that I wanted to go for family planning. Some of them responded to me negatively.
“They told me that I would gain a lot of weight and that I would be having heavy menstruation and all that.
“But I ignored all the negative things that they said and decided to give it a try. So, I went to a healthcare centre near my area in Yaba. When I got there, they directed me to their family planning section, and the health provider that I met there attended to me and explained all the methods to me.
“After that, I decided to use the injectables. Since then, I have been using it and it is working for me. Although it made me add some weight, I am happier using it and gaining weight than having the number of children that I cannot take care of.”
Enjoying sex without fear of getting pregnant
Continuing, she said,
“The only side effect that I have seen so far is weight gain. All the other negative things that I heard were all lies. I enjoy sex with my husband without fear of getting pregnant. All I do is take my injection every three months.
A bag of rice in 2013 when I had my last child was sold between N6,000 to N7,000. But a bag of rice is now sold for between N30,000 to N33,000. What about the rise in the cost of their school fees and books? Things are tough in this country now,
Despite the high cost of living now, my husband and I don’t need to struggle to feed them because they are few.
And we are going to train them in school up to the tertiary level. Imagine if they were seven or eight, what would our living conditions be today?
Family planning weapon to conquer poverty
For me, family planning is the way to go for any couple that wants to conquer poverty and give their children the best in life, especially good education.”
Mrs. Alice Ukaegbu, 32, is another mother enjoying family planning. The Lagos resident and indigene of Imo State said,
“I have four lovely children. My last child is six years old. I started using injectable family planning in 2016, six months after I gave birth to him.
I was encouraged by a health worker at Shomolu General Hospital to do it. Since then, it has been working for me. It, however, made me gain some weight. But I am not bothered because it is helping to prevent pregnancy.
My husband and I are doing well with the four children that we have. We can cater for them. And I have peace of mind each time I have sex with my husband because I am not afraid nor worried about getting pregnant.”
Alice, a fashion designer also said that a lot of women desiring to have fewer children are not on any family planning methods for fear of gaining weight.
The issue about weight gain, she insisted, will not hold her back from using family planning until she enters menopause.
Weight gain can be controlled -Experts
Maternal health experts say some of the family planning methods like the implant, injectables, and oral tablets are hormonal methods and therefore, can cause weight gain.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH, President, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, Dr. Habib Sadauki, said those experiencing weight gain by using contraceptives like injectables and implants should be active and control their diets.
The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist also urged them to try other methods like the Intrauterine devices which he said do not cause weight gain.
The SOGON president said,
“Weight gain in the use of some of these methods can be controlled by controlling your diet and what you eat. If you do that, the weight gain should not be that much.
“Now, it is not everybody that uses hormonal methods that gain weight. You should be active and engage in regular exercise. But by and large, it is suspected that because they are hormones and are linked to metabolism, they can cause weight gain. Those having issues with weight gain can use the IUD method.”
On the issue of heavy menstrual bleeding occasioned by the use of contraceptives, the gynaecologist said it might occur at the beginning of the use of the contraceptives and later resolve after repeated use.
Another mother of three Mrs. Jumoke Taiwo, 42, from Ondo State who is using the implant family planning method told our correspondent that the method has been working for her since she started using it three years ago.
The civil servant says:
“It was even my husband that encouraged me to embrace family planning. He doesn’t want us to have the number of children that will become a liability for us tomorrow.
“Initially, I was afraid of using it because of the negative things I heard about it. But with my husband’s support, I overcame the myths and misconceptions surrounding its use. It has no negative side effects.
“The only thing that I can say is weight gain. But I try to exercise regularly. Although, I will not allow weight gain to deny me the benefits of using contraceptives.”
Also sharing her experience is a mother of three, Mrs. Afiong Bassey. Afiong, a food vendor who is in her early 40s said,
“I was using injectables to space my children when I was giving birth. It enabled me to control my birth and having too many children comes with so many responsibilities which are difficult to carry.
“After I was done having children, the health provider in a private facility that I use suggested I go for a long-lasting method. So I chose the implant which lasts for about three years.
“The implant has been good for me, and I don’t have complaints apart from the fact that sometimes, I experience irregular menstruation and weight gain. That notwithstanding, I am not backing down on using contraceptives.”
Mrs. Ndidi Otuamah and other women who spoke with our correspondent narrated how they refused to allow the issue of weight gain, myths and misconceptions surrounding contraceptives to rob them of the benefits of embracing them and expose them to the risk of having too many children and its attendant consequences.
270 million have an unmet need for contraception -WHO
According to the World Health Organistaion, the use of contraception prevents pregnancy-related health risks for women, especially adolescent girls.
The global health agency noted that when births are separated by less than two years, the infant mortality rate is 45 percent higher than it is when births are two to three years apart and 60 percent higher than it is when births are four or more years apart.
The WHO also stated that methods of contraception include oral contraceptive pills, implants, injectables, patches, vaginal rings, Intrauterine devices, condoms, male and female sterilization, lactational amenorrhea methods, withdrawal, and fertility awareness-based methods.
“Among the 1.9 billion women of reproductive Age group (15-49 years) worldwide in 2019, 1.1 billion have a need for family planning; of these, 842 million are using contraceptive methods, and 270 million have an unmet need for contraception.
“Only one contraceptive method, condoms, can prevent both pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
“Use of contraception advances the human right of people to determine the number and spacing of their children,”
Family planning gives peace of mind
A family planning expert and member of the Public Health Sustainable Advocacy Initiative, Mrs. Abiola Adekoya told PUNCH that the reason women gain weight when they start using family planning was that they have peace of mind and no longer have issues over sex with their husbands. She says:
“When women do not have problems with their husbands, they are likely to gain weight. Some women use family planning and they do not gain weight and their shape remains the same.
“Those that are complaining of weight gain when they use the injectables should do exercise and if the weight gain continues, they should switch to other methods. The weight gain has to do with their body.”
Also speaking, the Director, Family Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Salma Ibrahim-Anas, says family planning and fertility education are critical to achieving sustainable development and a secure environment.
Ibrahim-Anas said that lack of family planning and poor access to fertility education contributed to the current security challenges affecting the nation.
The director said that proper planning and spacing of children would enable parents to instill morals, provide quality education, and nutrition, as well as improve chances of survival and reduce illnesses and burden on health facilities.
“Lack of family planning is a great contributor to insecurity in the country because the use is to space the number of children you want, the time you plan to have them, and the family size you can take care of.
“This is in terms of nutrition, moral upbringing, education, and quality care so that we have children that are raised to be productive, well mentored, and can contribute to national development.
“If you have so many you might not be able to cater to them. So this is where family planning comes in to regulate fertility.
“When you regulate fertility you have children that contribute to national development because they are well guided.
“If we are not able to do this, we might end in catastrophe because you have children that are not educated and have no access to quality education both formal and spiritual.
“This makes them think irrationally and without work, yet they have to cater for themselves. So they begin to look for various means of survival and this can lead to the insecurity that we are witnessing in Nigeria,”
2020 data from the World Bank shows that Nigeria’s fertility rate per woman is 5.2 while the average global fertility rate is 2.4 children per woman.
12% of women in Nigeria used modern contraceptive methods
According to estimates from the National Bureau of Statistics released in 2021, 12 per cent of women in Nigeria used modern contraceptive methods.
The NBS report noted that over 83 per cent of women in Nigeria were not using any contraceptive methods for pregnancy prevention in 2018.
Currently, the Nigerian government has a target of achieving a modern contraceptive rate of 27 per cent among all women by 2024.
The current population of Nigeria is 218 million based on projections of the latest United Nations data with the country still the largest population in Africa.
The UN projects that the overall population of Nigeria will reach about 401.31 million by the end of the year 2050.
“By 2100, if current figures continue, the population of Nigeria will be over 728 million,” it added.
According to the Census Bureau of the United States, the population of Nigeria will surpass that of the United States in 2047, when the population of Nigeria will reach 379.25 million. With those numbers, Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world.