One of us, in a heated family planning discussion, asked us who we thought should carry the biggest baggage of responsibility when it comes to family planning and contraceptives. There are a load of answers with elaborations including couples, governments, NGO’s or faith based organisations. But many people still asked what we mean by couples, women, men or both?
Data available in the Ministry of Health have shown that women have taken the greatest responsibility to seek family planning services in health facilities even without engaging their male partners. A major assumption is that this could still be the status globally. The fact that men do not get pregnant has rendered most of them careless when engaging in marital sexual relations.
Therefore, by focusing on females, have we been focusing on the wrong gender when it comes to family planning and contraception? Remember, women ovulate and menstruate once every month; hence, their fertility is short-lived, lasting less than 14 hours whereas a healthy man can produce sperms several times throughout the same month and beyond. A woman can only release a single egg (ovum) or two in some special cases in one month whereas a single man can produce between 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 eggs (sperms) in a single ejaculation. A woman can only be impregnated by a man once in a period lasting for 9 months whereas a healthy man can impregnate as many women when all factors are kept constant for the same period of time. It is possible that the failure of planning families with the right or desired spacing has led many women to engage in abortions unnecessarily; hence, exposing them to more risks of other infections, infertility and death in some extreme cases.
The failure of planning families with the right or desired spacing has led many women to engage in abortions unnecessarily hence exposing them to more risks of other infections, infertility and death in some extreme cases.
Couples should always have adequate knowledge with the prerequisite information on the kind of sex they engage in. This is because sex comes with a lot of responsibilities; thus, how safe or unsafe it is should be borne by both. Even then, when it comes to both partners and their lives, sex and the result, that is, a union, marriage or a baby has various implications, that is socially, economically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and health-wise. A common question ranging through the minds of many young people and couples is therefore whether or not to adopt a family planning method.
Understanding the concept of Family Planning
Let us pose this topic this way – what is the correct definition of family planning? Family planning is the practice of controlling the number of children one would like to have, and the intervals between their births, and this is particularly by means of contraception or voluntary sterilization. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that family planning allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. This is achieved majorly through the use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility. However, couples can still control the number of children through natural methods by counting the days of the menstrual cycle and regulating their sexual activities.
Contraceptives are therefore the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse. The major forms of artificial contraception are: barrier methods; contraceptive pill; intrauterine devices; and, sterilization. The most common of the barrier methods is the condom or sheath. The contraceptive pill contains synthetic sex hormones, which prevent ovulation in females. Intrauterine devices such as the coil prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus. Both male or females can be sterilized.
Enter the Dragon: Family Planning and the use of Contraceptives
Many people want to find out if contraception is the ‘only’ route to proper family planning. However, there are numerous myths regarding sex and contraception, especially in the more traditional-cum-contemporary societies. These arises majorly as a result of misinformation. The best way is to find out the most appropriate method depending on your health, religious and moral convictions as well as psychological well-being.
It is also important to find out the various types of contraceptives that are available in your region or country. In Kenya, there are several types of contraception available in various health facilities. They include: oral pills, condoms (male and female), Intra-uterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive implants, contraceptive injections, contraceptive patch, and diaphragm. These are described below.
It is strongly suggested that you consult your doctor or gynaecologist before embarking on any one of these methods.
The Intra-uterine Device
An Intra-uterine Device (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that is placed in the woman’s womb (uterus) by a qualified health practitioner. It releases copper to stop the women from getting pregnant, and protects against pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years. It’s sometimes called a ‘coil’ or ‘copper coil’. However, it is important to take into consideration several things about IUDs.
It is important to note that an IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted infections and therefore, the person will need to take extra precaution such as the use of a condom every time they have sex.
Not so comfortable after all …
It is important to note that menstrual periods can be heavier, longer or more painful in the first 3 to 6 months after an IUD is inserted. In addition, some women might get spotting or bleeding in between periods. There is also a small risk of getting an infection after it’s been fitted. There’s a small risk that the body may push out the IUD, or it may move. In that case, your doctor or nurse will teach you how to check if it’s well placed. In addition, it can be uncomfortable when the IUD is put in, but some people prefer to take painkillers if need arises. Also, it may not be suitable if the woman has had previous pelvic infections.
The general rule of the thumb is to be keen on observing any symptoms that indicate that the body is uncomfortable or in pain. This includes headaches, tenderness in your lower abdomen, high temperatures, hotness of the body, fever and/or abnormal or smelly discharge. In addition, you must be consciously aware that you or your partner need to protect yourselves against the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
The use of Condoms
Condoms are thin, stretchy pouches that cover the penis during sex and collect the semen. In that case, condoms provide great protection from both pregnancy and STDs. The most common argument about condoms is that they are easy to use and easy to access. Condoms prevent pregnancy by simply stopping the sperms from getting into the vagina, such that the sperm can’t meet up with an egg for fertilization. They are also considered as the safest method of contraception as they reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS.
There are 3 types of condoms: latex condoms, plastic (non latex) condoms, and lambskin (animal skin) condoms. Latex condoms are made from rubber. They are the most common type of condom and helps to protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. This type of condoms can only be used with water-based or silicone lube and not anything with oil, because oil can damage them.
Plastic or non-latex condoms are made from plastics like polyurethane, nitrite, or polyisoprene. They are safe for people with latex allergies or sensitivities. Various type of condoms also protects individuals against both pregnancy and STDs. You can use water-based and silicone lube with any kind of plastic condom. You can generally use oil-based lubes with plastic condoms. If you’re not sure whether your lube is safe to use with your condoms, check the instructions on the condom package. Other types although rare in our setting include lambskin condoms (aka animal skin condoms). You can use any kind of lube, including oils, with lambskin condoms.
Along with helping to prevent pregnancy, latex and plastic condoms also help prevent STDs by covering the penis — this prevents contact with semen and vaginal fluids, and limits skin-to-skin contact that can spread sexually transmitted infections. Lambskin condoms do NOT protect against STDs, because they have tiny holes that are small enough to block sperm but big enough to let bacteria and viruses to pass through. So, it’s best to use latex or plastic condoms to prevent both STDs and pregnancy.
Enter the males and their favourite gadget: Do condoms help protect against STDs
It is true that using condoms every time one has sex is the best way to reduce the chances of getting or spreading sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS. Condoms protect both the person and the partner from STDs by preventing direct contact with bodily fluids (like semen and vaginal fluids) that can carry infections. Also, since condoms cover the penis, they help protect against certain STDs like herpes and genital warts that are spread through skin-to-skin contact (but they’re somewhat less effective with these because they don’t cover all the skin.
Condoms are the only type of birth control that also help protect against STDs. So even if you’re using another form of birth control (like the pill), it’s a good idea to also use condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.