Monday January 6 2014

Encouraging rural women to use family planning

Women wait to receive antenatal services. Fertility rates

Women wait to receive antenatal services. Fertility rates are high among Ugandan women because the use of family planning remains low. File photo 


For 36-year-old Beatrice Namulondo, any talk about family planning will not convince her. “It will kill my fertility and I will never have children again,” she says.

“My colleagues told me contraceptives cause cancer,” she adds.
Namulondo says initially, she had thought of using family planning after giving birth to her seventh child, but feared the effects that would arise.

After a friend’s advice, Namulondo then tried to use other ways of preventing another pregnancy.

“I went to the village traditional herbalist, who gave me herbs, but they did not work because I got pregnant with my eighth child” she says.

The fear of using modern contraceptives and failure of the herbal concoctions made Namulondo give up, and choose the biblical way – go into the world and multiply.

Later, however, through community outreaches by Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), Namulondo was sensitised about contraceptives and how they work.
Namulondo, a resident of Gunda village, Nyanda parish in Luweero District is one of many young women in Uganda whose fertility rate is at least five children by the age of 30.

Teenage mothers
“Teenage mothers are increasingly becoming a big problem countrywide, and it is accelerated by parental neglect and contraceptive fears,” says Abdul Nadduli, the Luweero District chairperson.

Statistics at the Luweero District headquarters indicate that contraception uptake at all health centres between January and October 2013, stood at 42 per cent only.

Another report authored by Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/Aids (AGHA) in Uganda notes that the reason contraceptive use remains low is because of various cultural constraints and wrong perceptions about family planning services.

Dr Zainab Akol, the principal medical officer in charge of family planning at the ministry of health, says the challenge is still big in many rural districts and requires collective responsibilities of all community members.

“More effort should be directed towards teenagers. For them sex is for pleasure, but in the process, they are caught up with unwanted pregnancies,” she says.

This, she adds is also leading to a high mortality rate.

How sensitisation is helping
Through the regional advocacy programme which is being implemented in Luweero District, Jackson Chekweko, the RHU director, says sensitisation is slowly helping to change perceptions of communities against family planning.

“People’s perceptions are gradually changing mostly among young mothers, and this is where we want other political stake holders to come on board, and supplement our efforts, Chekweko said.

RHU has trained Village Health Teams (VHTs), who will help to sensitise the communities by moving from house to house, and avail services to those who may need them.

He says there are several contraception methods being given to the communities, including intrauterine devices (IUDs), diaphragms, pills, implants and injections.

Dr Akol says, before a woman chooses to enrol for a particular method, they go through counselling sessions to help them appreciate the benefits of the different methods, and also address some fears that they may have.
“That is why it is advised that every woman who wants to use contraceptives should consult with their doctor or nurse, who will recommend different options that are good for the mother,” Dr Akol explains.