Men and family planning
Are family planning services essential?This answer to this question can never be similar if posed to men and women separately.According to some men,we have been called upon to multiple.Hence a case where one man was interviewed about this and clearly said that he would not mind if his wife would bear him children up to that point in time when her body would not be able to conceive.In short,give birth until she attains menopause
The importance of family planning cannot be overlooked.
Mary and Joseph got their first child within two years of their marriage
They decided that it was time to go for family planning services. So when Joseph informed his mother about his intended visit to the hospital, he was given a serious lecture. He was asked “when did you ever see a man in this village go for family planning services?”. Joseph not having an answer to this, decided not to accompany Mary, his wife to the hospital. Joseph’s decision was also informed by the fact that he is “mama’s boy”
Is this situation unique?
This situation is not unique to Joseph’s family
In Kenya, most family planning services are provided in the hospital setup. To add on this, they are offered with clinics frequented by women. Men have therefore relegated the responsibility of choosing a family planning method to women. Some men have even taken this a notch higher by expecting their female partners to make all the decisions on contraceptives to be used, child spacing, pregnancy, child birth, among all other reproductive health services.
This makes one wonder what is the exact role of men in so far as family reproductive health is concerned. Most men and women also have the perception that family planning is for prostitutes. This has further complicated the reproductive health of women, resulted in increase in unwanted pregnancies and abortion. In some instances, the loss of libido caused by some family planning methods have also contributed to violence in homes.Among teenagers ,there has been an influx in the numbers that use emergency contraception,especially on Mondays.
Despite this trend,the Kenya Supplies Agency recently released a report indicating millions of emergency contraceptives are about to expire due to low demand.Not sure whether this agency procures family planning commodities to match the demand or vice versa.
What next for Mary?
Despite this common trend, Mary decided to visit a district hospital in Kenya. Here she was given various family planning options that they could use. These included implants, injectable, condoms, diaphragm, and even sterilization.
Mary had never gone to school and therefore didn’t see the need of asking the nurse what the implications of each of these family planning methods were on her fertility, libido, health etc.Her ignorance could also be attributed to the shortfalls within education system,since we are not taught early enough on what family planning is.
The only thing she knew was that she didn’t want to conceive any time soon. So she decided to go for tubal ligation as the nurse told her that this can be reversed. Which isn’t 100% true.
Upon her return from the hospital, Mary informed Joseph that she had been well attended to. She also told him that she had not been given any family planning drugs and that the method offered to her is 100 % effective. Joseph didn’t bother to get details on what family planning services Mary was accorded while in hospital. He even ensured that she followed the advice given by having enough rest.
Family planning :effects of ignorance
Two years later, Mary and Joseph decided to have another baby. For this to happen, it was necessary for Mary to go back to the hospital for a routine check and advice on how best to go about this.
This time round, she managed to convince her husband to accompany her. At the hospital, Mary’s history was obtained. She was asked if she had ever used family planning services. Mary replied in the affirmative. The nurse probed further on the type of birth control method Mary had used. Mary not knowing the name of the method, offered to describe the procedure that she taken through.
In utter disbelief, the nurse asked Mary if she knew that she had been subjected to permanent sterilization. At this point, Joseph interjected the discussion by asking the nurse what she meant by permanent sterilization
The nurse didn’t know what to say. As this meant that the wife had been sterilized without the husbands’ knowledge.
The nurse tactfully explained what sterilization meant. She then asked Joseph why he didn’t know about what his wife had been subjected to. For which he replied that he didn’t accompany her since his mother talked him out of it.
The nurse not knowing how to handle this situation without blaming either party informed that they needed to come again for further counseling. This was so because total ligation is a permanent family planning method, and that there are serious issues this couple needs to have dealt with two years ago.
The couple left the hospital dejected.
Upon reaching home, Joseph was in a dilemma:
- Should he chase away Mary since she would not be able to conceive again? ;or
- Should she blame his mother for having mis-advised him?
What would you do if you were in Joseph and Mary’s shoes?
Men why continue to blame women for your own mistakes or lack of information.Decision making on family planning is not a preserve for women alone.Men ought to be actively engaged in making decisions on the type of family planning methods they or their wives should go for.