In both the northern and southern regions, there has been advocacy to enlighten women of reproductive age – both married and unmarried, on family planning and birth control methods. However, the side effects faced by some women from birth control methods aren’t as outspoken as the advocacy to use them. Daily Trust on Sunday writes.
While having a round table discussion with some women, the issue of birth control and family planning came up. A few of the women advocated that family planning was a crucial need for every woman and that young girls should be enlightened on the use of contraceptives in order to reduce the growing rate of teenage mums and pregnancies.
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However, a few of the women objected to the idea as they went on to narrate their experiences with different forms of birth control methods.
Ms Amina Haruna mentioned that after conceiving her third child and on the advice of her obstetrician, she was told to try the contraceptive implant method which involves the placement of small plastic rod in the upper area of the arm.
“The first three months of using the implant were very unbearable for me. My menstrual flow began to last for two weeks and I would experience some form of paralysis on my waist and heavy abdominal pain all through my menstrual cycle. Sometimes, it would even come with a migraine,” she said.
Ms Amina said that she had earlier been told to expect some forms of discomfort and hormonal changes that would come with the use of the implant. However, she stated that after using it for a period of six months, she decided to take it out and try another contraceptive method.
“Because I had been told I would experience some form of discomfort while on the implant, I didn’t see the need to consult my doctor even when I was going through so much pain. However, after the sixth month I complained to my doctor who then told me to take out the contraception implant and go for the IUD hormonal implant.”
Another lady, Mrs Gloria Nnachi, also said the contraceptive implants really affected her hormones, leaving her to deal with hormonal acne, elongated menstrual periods and extreme weight gain.
“I used the implant for over two years and I can tell you that it was a very horrific experience for me. Before, I could boast of having a smooth face but after inserting the implant, I was left to deal with hormonal acne on my face. I began to put on so much weight that refused to go even with my diet and exercise routines.”
Mrs Nnachi recalled that she used the implant for a period of two years before deciding to take it out and subscribe to a natural form of birth control i.e., using an ovulation test kit to confirm her fertile and non-fertile days.
Another lady, Chidinma Ajunwa, mentioned that she was told that her IUD would last for a period of 4 years, however in the fourth year right before her appointment to renew the implant, she found out she was pregnant.
According to Chidinma; “I was shocked to find out that I was pregnant despite the fact that I still had my IUD inserted in me. It was at the clinic that the nurse explained to me that it was possible to get pregnant and still have your IUD inserted reason being that once it gets close to the expiration date, it may not be as effective as it’s supposed to be.”
Chioma Ekeh, who also spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said she had used three various types of birth control methods before sticking to the one which one came with the most bearable side effects.
She explained that; “I started with the injections which seemed alright to me until I wanted to conceive. It took more than a year after I stopped before I was able to get pregnant. After having my child, I resumed back to the injections but this time around, I got pregnant nonetheless.”
According to Mrs Chioma Ekeh, she jettisoned the injection for IUD but the side effects that came with the IUD stood out to be the most unbearable for her. She recalled that; “When I was on the IUD, I had mood swings, I experienced heavy flow for two weeks straight during my period, accompanied with serious waist pains.”
Mrs Ekeh is currently using the implant and even though it still has its own side effects, it is the most bearable for her as compared to others.
She said; “With the implants, I see my period once every 3 or 4 months and it lasts for 2-3 days. Compared to what I had experienced from other methods, I believe this is the most suitable for me. I have been using it for nine years. I use the one that lasts for three years, and the one I have on currently is the third.”
Due to the rising population in sub-Saharan African countries, the goal of improving contraceptive uptake remains elusive. Many programs have received financing in the area in an attempt to address the high levels of unfulfilled family planning needs.
Nigeria, as one of the most populated countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, remains a focus for expanding contraceptive use. Nigeria’s total fertility rate (TFR) is high, with estimates ranging from 5.5 to 5.7 for women of reproductive age (15–49).
15.7 million of Nigeria’s 45 million women of reproductive age (15–49) desire to avoid having a child; that is, they are able to become pregnant, are married or unmarried and sexually active, and do not want a child for at least two years.
Modern contraceptives are used by 6.2 million women (14 percent of all women of reproductive age). Male condoms (43 percent) are the most often used modern method, followed by injectables (21 percent), and oral contraceptive tablets (12 percent).
A 24-year-old lady who identified herself as Cynthia Ogun, told Daily Trust on Sunday that she now suffers from an irregular cycle due to consistent use of contraceptive pills. She mentioned that she had earlier tried the contraception implant but that didn’t work out well for her.
“In a bid to avoid being pregnant, I decided to visit a fertility centre where I was told that the contraceptive implant was the safest method for me especially because I was yet to be married and have children.
“After a period of using the implant, I tripled in weight. I had terrible mood swings, my periods lasted longer than they usually would and the pain that came with it was really horrible.
“I then decided to take it out and opt for the pills instead. The downside to that decision is that now my period shows up at anytime because my hormones are distorted,” she said.
Cynthia mentioned that advocacy for the girl child to have knowledge of the use of contraception was necessary but also had to be followed up with caution. She noted that; “It’s no lie that we have a number of young girls turning out to be mothers; however, the effects of these contraceptive methods are not as outspoken as the need for them.
“Awareness on the use of the morning after pill for the girl child is heavily preached about yet, the side effects she is likely to go through such as long menstrual cycle, spotting between periods, breast tenderness etc is often belittled,” she added.
Consultant Gynaecologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr Nathaniel Adewole, stated that even though they were some side effects that come with birth control methods, he still advises a majority of women to undergo the process.
He said; “The benefits of birth control methods greatly outweigh the risks that persons are likely to face. The side effects are less spoken about because they’re very minimal and also only affect very few women.”
According to Dr Adewole, before women are administered any form of birth control or family planning, their age, prior health conditions and also the number of children they have are considered.
He said; “As a health expert, I won’t encourage anyone with consistent headaches and migraines to take the daily contraceptive pills neither will I advise anyone with hypertension and obesity to take the implant.”
Dr Adewole also advised the use of birth control method by teenage girls as he stated that birth control methods do not affect future fertility. He noted that; “I always encourage young women and mothers to get birth control. They should get in touch with fertility specialists who will explain the options available and what likely risks they might encounter.
“Also, if at any point you begin to feel any form of discomfort with the method, let your doctors know so they can adopt a more convenient method for you,” he added.