Mary Youmbi is a mother of three who has never used a contraceptive. She is among thousands of women in Cameroon turning away from birth control.
Many of these women advance countless reasons why being on a contraceptive is simply a bad idea.These ideologists make up about 70% of women in Cameroon who not think contraceptives necessary.
The World Health Organization says “among the 1.9 billion Women of Reproductive Age group (15-49 years) worldwide in 2019, 1.1 billion have a need for family planning; of these, 842 million are using contraceptive methods, and 270 million have an unmet need for contraception [1,2]”
According to Cameroon’s Demographic and Health Survey Indicators of 2018, prevalence for use of modern contraceptives is 16.3%. This figure goes up to between 28-30% if traditional contraceptive methods are taken into account. The same study carried out in 2011 indicated that only 7% of women in Cameroon used contraceptives. This 2018 figure indicates a more than 50% increase in contraceptive use.
Why use a contraceptive?
Women have been using contraceptives for many years to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but the importance of contraceptives goes beyond preventing pregnancies.
Renowned and celebrated Gynecologist, Director of the Yaounde Gyneco-Obstetric and Pediatric Hospital explains.
“Contraceptives are not to prevent pregnancies but to space out your pregnancies based on your means so that children can become strong, go to school and work for the government. The government gains because the children have grown healthy and can work.That is when we talk about the demographic dividends of family planning,” Prof. Mbu Robinson Enow said.
Fear, lack of knowledge about a contraceptive, concerns about side effects, potential health risks are leading reasons preventing women from contraceptive use.
Aside the existing myths, some women have unsupportive partners who place a taboo on contraceptives. Such women for the most part, have no choice other than to comply.
‘I wouldn’t not advise any woman to use contraceptives’
The pill, Intra Uterine Device ( IUD), hormonal implants, male and female condoms, and voluntary sterilization are unnecessary for some, and a taboo for others.
“I hear it causes a lot of problems to women. I was told that women who use contraceptives bleed a lot and put on too much weight. Sometimes you have multiply pregnancies whereas you weren’t ready for those children. I can’t advise someone to use contraceptives,” Danielle P. says.
“I don’t use contraceptives because, I hear women who use it later on have problems. A friend told me never to use them because of her experience. She was on contraceptives and had difficulties conceiving when she stopped using it. She finally resorted to traditional medicine before conceiving,” Victoire Atangana explains.
Another woman has never used a contraceptive because she has problems with conception.
“ I have never used a contraceptive. It is for women who don’t want to conceive. I have never been able to conceive, so why will I be using contraceptives? I cabr use them ,” Alice Ngono said.
According to Prof. Mbu, a woman would blatantly refuse contraceptives “because of fear.” He says some women are afraid “because they don’t have the correct information about contraceptives. That is why they say it may make them become fat, or experience other problems.”
Most of the women turning their backs on contraceptives have neither seen a doctor to get first-hand insights into how contraceptives work.
“There is always counseling before a woman chooses which contraceptive to use. Without proper counseling or counseling that’s not comprehensive, women will go home with different ideas about contraceptives,” Prof. Mbu adds.
Most women who do not use contraceptives are not well informed about their sexuality. Accordingly, educating women with the right knowledge and access to services will help them make informed decisions about contraceptives that is best for their bodies, and families.
Kathy Neba Sina