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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Spousal communication key to family planning success

As communication is key to a successful marriage, so it is with family planning uptake among couples.

Conversely, lack of communication has often been linked to misunderstanding in relationships. Family planning, otherwise known as contraception, refers to the diverse methods and techniques whereby couples can determine the number of children they want to have and when.

Evidence has shown that many factors hinder rapid uptake of family planning by couples, due to lack of communication in the home.

Some of them include: myths and misconceptions on initiating use of traditional and modern methods of contraceptives.

Many couples are in relationships where it is commonly believed that the man being the head of the family dictates the tune with regards to taking key decisions in the home. For instance, if the man does not approve of any family planning method, the wife would have an uphill task convincing him on thinking otherwise.

Based on such differences, some women in marriage/relationships have gone behind their spouses and adopted family planning method without their knowledge, have often created mistrust which regularly leads to conflicts in homes. In one of such experiences which occurred in Lagos State recently, a man, names withheld, suddenly found out that his wife had adopted an implant, which is a hormone-based and highly effective contraceptive device.

The typical implant is a small flexible tube measuring about 40mm in length and is inserted under the skin (typically in the upper arm) by a health care professional. It prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones that prevent ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens cervical mucous. 

After putting pressure on the woman, she confessed to him, explaining that she wanted to space their children to enable her regain her health and then continue with her job. Besides considering the dangers of too frequent pregnancies, the woman also considered the burden of combining another pregnancy with her job, which she envisaged would be quite unbearable for her and might even make her lose her job that is so difficult to get these days.

Unfortunately, in all the woman’s explanations, her husband refused to see reasons with her just because he was not involved from the beginning when the decision was taken by his wife to have a family planning and during the process when the woman was counselled on the method to use.

Though the man in anger demanded that the healthcare provider that administered the implant on her should remove it, to the consternation of his wife, this misunderstanding could have been avoided if the couple had a collective decision on the issue which could only be achieved through effective communication.

This experience plays out in most Nigerian homes, often resulting in conflicts, separation and in extreme cases, divorce. However, it can be effectively addressed through constant engagement and communication among couples. This is because, embracing family planning methods and using them correctly after proper counselling  is more important than the conflict. Rather, it should be a measure to unite couples.

Experts say family planning gives individuals and couples the opportunity to have the number of their desired children, the spacing and timing of their births and this can be achieved through the use of contraceptive methods.

A Family Planning expert, Dr. Ejike Orji, believes that dialogue is very important when a spouse in a relationship plans to adopt family planning. According to him, any woman going ahead to do things that her husband do not like would not get his support and this may result into unnecessary conflict, whereas, the aim of using family planning was bonding in families.

It is obvious that a wide range of family planning options are available nowadays with their potential benefits. It, therefore, behooves on the woman who is initiating the subject of family planning to her husband to find a way to open conversation on the issue.

For instance, such a woman should find out what her husband thinks and says about it; and how he might relate with her on this issue. In conclusion, it is clear that a woman discussing family planning with her husband, would bring the partner to the same level on which she is, and this measure could pave way for the couple to be on the same page.

While on the same page, the woman should remember to consult a trained healthcare provider who can help her make the best choice tailored towards meeting her own unique needs.

*Courtesy: Media for Health Advocacy

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