In the past, it was rare for women to use contraception as a birth control method. According to the Uganda Demographic health survey of 2016, 39 per cent of married women use contraceptives and 51 per cent of sexually active unmarried women also use contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Dr Richard Asaba, a general practitioner at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital, says a number of sexually active women use emergency pills they usually purchase from pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription. “...Since they are readily available, women use the pills every time they engage in unprotected sex,” he says.
Dr Asaba notes that though the manufactures of the emergency pills do not clearly state their long term implications, women should be mindful when taking them.
He says the practice is common in urban areas where they are easily accessible. “In urban areas, especially among students in institutions of higher learning, five out of 10 girls will attest to having used emergency pills,” he says.
According to Dr Charles Kiggundu, the President of the Uganda Gynecologists Association, such widespread use of emergency contraception is alarming because most women using them are unaware of their mechanism of action and safety.
He says many women rash for contraceptive methods without finding out exactly how they will affect them in the long run.
Dr Kiggundu says emergency contraception such as Postinor 2, Gynomin and I-pill among others can change the length of your monthly menstrual cycle, making your next period come a week earlier or a week later than usual. Some women also find that the hormones in the pills cause unexpected bleeding, although it is not a common.
“Using the morning-after pill may delay your period by up to one week after you normally expect it. If you do not get your period within three to four weeks of taking the pill, take a pregnancy test,” he advises.
Delay in getting pregnant
Elizabeth Nakyambadde, a mother of two says she used emergency contraception on several occasions which made it difficult for her to get pregnant the time she wanted.
“While at university, out of fear of getting pregnant I would often buy these pills whenever I had unprotected sex. Because I hardly suffered any side effects, I thought my body was reacting well to them. However, when I married, it took me two years to finally get a baby. The doctors I consulted told me unlike normal contraceptive methods, emergency pills make it hard for one who frequently uses them to conceive when the time comes,” she narrates.
But Christine Nankya (not real name) was not lucky like Nakyambadde. She says she used the emergency pills on a number of occasions and ever since she stopped using them she has failed to conceive.
“I last used emergency pills in 2015 but since then I have been trying to get a child in vain. I have consulted health workers who have told me that my reproductive system is normal and I will conceive with time, but it is taking long and I am worried this might lead to problems in my marriage,” she says.
“Although we all make mistakes, some are potentially life-changing. For example, instead of having unprotected sex when you are not ready for pregnancy, opt for contraception that does not put your life at risk such as condoms. Alternatively, you can abstain from sex until you find the right partner to marry,” Dr Kiggundu advises.