Making informed choices in family planning

##Press Release

Many women at some points in their lives have experienced anxiety over the possibility of having an unplanned pregnancy, whether she’s a young woman who’s not yet ready to conceive or a mother who wants to plan the size of her family to assure her children of a good life and education.

Unintended pregnancies can impact the health and wellbeing of families. It can lead to poverty, and in worst cases, maternal and infant mortality. In 2017, the Asian Development Bank reported that 114 mothers die in every 100,000 live births, and 22 babies die out of 1,000 live births in the Philippines. 

Among the modern contraceptive methods available are subdermal implants, condoms and pills – all available to protect women for unplanned pregancies

The edanger to pregnant mothers is further heightened by a lack, if not absence, of access to primary care as in the case of women in indigent communities or far-flung barrios. Women from poor municipalities are far more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their counterparts who get full pre- and post-natal care.

Beyond maternal health, birth spacing is associated with lower incidence of neonatal and infant deaths. Children from small families also receive better quality of care as parents are more invested in terms of time and supporting their financial needs.

This is why the World Health Organization and the Department of Health (DOH) have been consistent in stressing the importance of family planning and birth spacing.

With priority given to the indigent, women can choose from natural to modern methods of family planning available through the DOH, in cooperation with the local government, Commission on Population (PopCom) and its partners from the private sector.

In the Philippines, one in three Filipinas prefer natural over modern methods of family planning, according to a report by the University of the Philippines on the findings of the Demographic and

Health Surveys conducted from 2003 to 2013.

Natural birth control methods include the fertility awareness method or rhythm method, which is tracking the woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation so that the woman will know on which days she can have unprotected sex and still avoid pregnancy. The withdrawal method is when the man ejaculates outside the vagina, keeping the sperm out of the woman’s body to prevent fertilization.

Although natural contraception can be highly effective, there are still risks and anxieties that a woman might conceive because her ovulation cycle can change in the course of the month and the withdrawal method could have been done incorrectly by her partner. Using natural contraception may be a hit and miss way of delaying pregnancy, which is why modern family planning methods are taking centerfold in terms of efficacy and even in protecting against sexually transmitted infections.

Common modern methods are the use of condoms and contraceptive pill. Condoms form a barrier to block sperm and egg from meeting and protect against STIs such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Contraceptive pills contain hormones that prevent the release of eggs from the ovaries and thicken the cervical mucus to prevent fertilization.

There is also a combined injectable contraceptive, which is injected every month, is 99 percent effective, safe, and can help regularize the menstrual cycle.

For couples who want to delay pregnancy for longer periods of time, such as those with a clear timeline of when the next child will be welcomed in the family, the Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) or otherwise known as “fit and forget” contraception are ideal options for they can work for years without user action, and are reversible when stopped.

The progestin subdermal impant is one example of LARC which is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy for up to three years and can be easily removed once the woman decides

to conceive. The subdermal implant is a thin plastic rod about the size of a matchstick inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. It releases a hormone that stops the body from releasing eggs each month and thickens mucus in the cervix, thus blocking sperm.

Another LARC is the Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) which is a small, T-shaped object that is put inside the uterus through a simple procedure by an experienced nurse or doctor. The IUD comes in two forms – the copper and hormone IUDs which stop the sperm from reaching the egg, and when this does happen, the fertilized egg is stopped from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Like the progestin subdermal implant, IUD is equally effective and works for up to 10 years.

Other modern methods include the bilateral tubal ligation which is a surgical procedure that involves blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from being fertilized; and the no-scalpel vasectomy among men which is puncturing the scrotum to interrupt the delivery of sperm without affecting sexual drive and potency.

Practicing informed choice and responsible parenthood is a right for women to be able to regain her health after childbirth and among couples who want to devote time and money to manage the family’s health and to support a bright future for their children. When money is the least of worries, there are improved relations among members of the family as well, most notably between husband and wife. ###