By Rebecca Kalaowubo
There is no doubt that children are priceless gifts from God and their coming brings joy to the parents. However, when there are too many children, more than what parents could cater, it becomes a problem. This is why family planning or birth control, as a way of ensuring that couple have the number of children they would conveniently take care of, was devised.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that family planning is a way of thinking and living adopted voluntarily on the basis of knowledge, attitude and responsible decisions by individuals and couples in order to promote the health and welfare of the family. It is also the arrangement, spacing and limitation of the children in a family, depending on the wishes and social circumstances of the parents. It is the planning of when to have children and the use of birth control and other techniques to implement such plans.
Birth control involves guidance about timing, child spacing and number of children education regarding contraceptive methods and the provision of facilities for birth control. The aim is to produce children by choice and not by chance. When a couple decides when they want to have children, and when they do not, they can choose among the several methods to prevent the woman from becoming pregnant, for as long as she wishes. These are known as methods of birth control or contraception.
When a mother has child after child, without enough space between, she often becomes weak. She breastfeeds her babies for a shorter time, and they are more likely to die. And after so many pregnancies, the danger of dying at childbirth is greater. It is, therefore, a sine qua non for couples to allow two or more years to pass between pregnancies, and to avoid having a very large number of children.
Different couples have different reasons for wanting to limit the size of their family. Some young parents may decide to delay having children until they have worked and saved enough, so that they can afford to take good care of their children. Others may decide that a small number of children is enough, and never want more. Still others feel that they are too old to have more kids.
The scope of family planning goes beyond just limiting the family size and preventing unwanted pregnancy, as many people think, but includes proper child spacing, sex education, sterility education for parenthood and genetic counselling.
Level of awareness
When Rukayat Aliyu, a cleaner at the Migosi Health Centre in Lagos State, Nigeria, was invited for training on family planning, she was sure there had been some mistake. “Those things are always for the nurses and doctors. Why would they ever want a cleaner to attend that programme?” she reasoned.
However, when the 27-year-old mother of eight attended the programme, her testimony, as it were, changed.
“We learnt so much about family planning in those classes. Everybody had questions, even the nurses. I asked so many. With eight children, I now know I can’t continue having children,” she declared.
There are many ways to control births. They include the use of contraceptive, abstinence and traditional method.
Natural method or fertility awareness method:
This is the identification of fertile periods. The effectiveness of this method depends on the ability of the women to identify her fertile time and abstain from unprotected sex, in order to prevent pregnancy,
The successful use of fertility awareness method (FAM) to avoid pregnancy depends on adequate teaching by qualified personnel.
To prevent pregnancy using this method, women have to avoid sex during fertile period or ovulation period, which is two days before and after ovulation. The practical is based on the knowledge of the physiology of the female reproductive system, including menstruation, conception and changes in the quality of vaginal secretions.
This could be done using the “calendar or rhythm method,” which is based on calculation on basis of the number of days in the shortest and longest cycle. Usually, a woman has a chance of becoming pregnant only during eight days of her monthly cycle – her fertile days. These eight days come midway, between her periods, beginning 10 days after the first day of menstrual bleeding. To avoid getting pregnant, she should not have intercourse during these eight days, as she is likely to get pregnant. During the rest of the month, she is not likely to get pregnant.
This method is practicable in women who have regular menstrual cycle. If the woman and her husband carefully avoid sex in these eight days each month, it is possible that they will go years without pregnant. However, some couples are successful only for a short time.
How does a woman know which is ovulating? This could be done using ovulation kit or by observing her body temperature.
The ovulation kit is used to test the woman’s urine, as the luteinising hormone (LH) is present in the urine. The luteinising hormone increases 24-48 hours prior to ovulation. The LH surge triggers the release of an egg from one of the woman’s ovaries (ovulation). The best time to test is when the woman start noticing a build-up of cervical mucus.
Most ovulation tests may be done any time of the day. Some suggest testing first thing in the morning. For greater success, test about the same time each day, and reduce your liquid intake for four hours beforehand.
Fertility monitors, such as the OvaCue monitor, can accurately predict ovulation up to seven days in advance. There is also a mobile version of the monitor that allows you to track your fertility directly on your iphone or other iOS compatible device.
With the ovulation kit, a woman could give herself a test to know when she is ovulating and abstain from sex before, during and after.
Ovulation could be detected through body temperature of the woman. The woman usually takes her temperature every morning before any physical or emotional activity occurs each day. A rise in temperature (usually about 0.50C – 10C) indicates ovulation.
This method is not practicable, where there is high level of illiteracy because the women will not be able to read the thermometer or chart the even if they know the end of the thermometer to put in the month.
Use of contraceptive
This is a method by which women use birth control drugs to prevent pregnancies. Most birth control pills contain a mix of the hormones estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation (the release of an egg during the monthly cycle). A woman cannot get pregnant if she doesn’t ovulate because there is no egg to be fertilised.
The woman should start her pills on the first day of period and continue to take one pill every day at the same time.
This is method whereby the man withdraws his penis from the woman’s vagina, during intercourse at the point of ejaculating. By so doing, the man would not discharge his sperm inside the woman’s vagina and therefore there is no possibility of the sperm meeting the woman’s released eggs. Although experts say this method is about 83 percent effective, just equivalent to a condom, it is not completely safe as the liquid secretion from the penis before ejaculation could cause pregnancy.
The effective Copper T method:
The device is implanted by a trained doctor and can be removed when the couple is ready for conception. There are a lot of women who opt for this method to delay the chances of getting pregnant.
Many women get their tubes tied to prevent further pregnancies. This is permanent and requires surgery.
The use of condom during intercourse could pass for protected sex. The condom is worn round the male’s reproductive organ before intercourse. The sperm is therefore discharged into the condom and not into the woman’s private part during sex. Condom must be used correctly and must be used every time you have sex. However, condom could break and the purpose would be defeated.
Which method is best and without side effects? Dr. Moses Adedoyin, chief consultant at Bismo Hospital, Iyana-Isashi, Lagos, said some methods work better for some people than others, since the body differs. According to him, if a woman should have problems with a particular method, she should go for another one, for the sake of her health and for the fear of unwanted pregnancy.