In Rwanda, women are calling for concerned institutions that offer contraceptive services to first check on them to ascertain their health conditions before they start applying them citing health risks as a result of not being tested.
Undoubtedly, Rwanda is experiencing a dramatic population increase with an increase of up to 200000 new babies every year according to official statistics by authorities.
The solution is family planning which the government has been rolling out since the inception of the National Office of Population (ONAPO) in 1981 but women say the program needs to address the issue of side effects from contraceptive methods.
Health officials have been grappling with stories of women who allege that the use of contraceptives can be harmful.
Yvonne Murekatete, mother of two who resides in Kirehe district in Eastern Province says she has desisted from using contraceptives prescribed by a medical professional after she was being harmfully affected.
She stressed that since she started using contraceptive methods, she has been the one deciding what to apply.
“I used to bleed a lot and whenever my husband and I would have sex it was awfully painful but now that I used another method-condom, it is perfect,” she says.
“I heard that it is better to have a discussion with my doctor about a woman’s health condition before adopting any contraceptive method, but invain, for me I didn’t have a discussion with my the nurse who provided me the contraceptive medicine.” Continuous Murekatete.
Nathan Hitiyaremye, health director at the Kirehe district said that several times the stories of side effects from contraceptives are not true and sometimes they are based on hear-says and poor mind set.
“Though we have few nurses at the Health Centers with a big number of clients, we always ask them to explain to
couples on all methods of contraception and to have a depth discussion about their health conditions. Sometimes they need to learn each positive impact of a method as well as possible side effects of that method,” Hitiyaremye said.
“And even we tell them that when they see that the side effects are very negative, they have to come back to the health centre so we can change that method,” he adds
Charlotte Uwamahoro another mother of two also from Kirehe district says she wants to quit using contraceptives after hearing from fellow women dire effects of using them and her personally facing what she thought was going to make her barren. “I and My husband have decided to quit contraceptives,” she says
Medical professionals however dismiss the allegations that the contraceptives are harmful to human body.
Health practitioners normally teach women about contraceptive methods during ante-natal check-ups. They, however, say that women who show signs of side effects from contraceptive methods are far less.
“We mobilize them when they visit the health center for the ante-natal tests but of up to 300 women we receive a day, only one shows that the signs of side effects from contraceptives,” said Innocent Munyakabuga, Kirehe health center director, a facility that serves thousands of women from Gatore, Kigina and Kirehe sectors.
A couple of farmers has resorted to a method which doctors don’t prefer: Coitus interruptus the Latin for ‘interrupted intercourse’ because it is less likely that a man will be able to withdraw before ejaculation.
The story of Charlottes matches that of many others who are trying to curb unwanted pregnancies but daunted by multiple stereotypes that need to be debunked by medical professionals.
“When I see that I am approaching my ovulation we stop sex or in case of failing to control our sex life, my husband adopts the coitus interruptus and this has helped us because one child is seven while another is two years,” Mukamana Immaculata says
“For me, I don’t think contraceptive methods are not good but after getting my first through C-section, I chose the three-month injection to stop pregnancy but it was terribly hurting in my abdomen. And it affected my sex life because, within nine months, I could not feel like I want to have sex with my husband,” she continous
Mukamana adds that women need to be educated on the right methods to help them to better trust the contraceptive methods.
Traditional methods of family planning range from withdrawal (coitus interruptus), calendar-based methods like cycle-beads to symptom-based methods like cervical mucus and body temperature. While modern methods are intrauterine devices, implants, injectables, pills, and condoms. They are most trusted by health professionals since they are effective in usefully helping curb pregnancies.
As Munyakabuga, a medical professional says; another method of permanently losing the ability to give birth tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for men. Numbers are still very low from those who adopt these methods.
Munyakabuga also said that when it is noticed that one method has negative side effects to a woman, they change it.
Mothers who use the contraceptives are monitored by the community health workers who even give them pills and condoms when needed.
Contraceptive prevalence has increased dramatically in Rwanda, from 4% in 2000 to 45% in 2010 but the government wishes to see 70 percent of eligible women integrated with the family planning.
The national institute of statistics of Rwanda predicts that the population would most probably increase from 10.5 million in 2012 to 16.9 million. A suggestion that the future size of the Rwandan population would be about 50% more than the current population.
Health officials however decry that religious and entities and mind set and prejudices affect the numbers of contraceptive prevalence.
“Some churches dissuade people from using contraceptives and this affects how women view the use of contraceptives. We need to keep educating them,” said Hitiyaremye.