Experts urge the expansion of contraceptive choices to tackle teenage pregnancies
Health experts are recommending that health systems offer a wider range of contraceptive options for young people to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancies. This proposal was made during a dialogue held on October 12, 2023, in a digital forum known as X (formerly Twitter) Space, which focused on the significance of diverse family planning choices.
According to these experts, young individuals currently have limited contraceptive options, and their preferences tend to be biased due to this restriction. Robert P’ayala, a former coordinator at Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation in Uganda, emphasized that the limited choices curtail the freedom to make family planning decisions, stating, “When you have a wide range of options, that is when you can enjoy your right of choice.”
Joan Amanda, co-founder of the Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health (UYAFPAH), highlighted that the mindset of young people plays a crucial role in shaping their family planning choices. She explained that the youth are influenced by various opinions and experiences from external sources, making their decision-making process more challenging.
Amanda stated that the environment in which young girls find themselves often dictates their mindset. If they hear negative stories about a particular contraceptive method, such as weight gain or illness, they are less likely to consider it. Additionally, Amanda noted that government-provided condoms are often dismissed by young people, citing their small size and unreliability as reasons.
Amanda implied that young women often rely on the opinions of their male partners when choosing contraceptives. However, Emmanuel Kodwo Mensah, a senior researcher specializing in gender equality and sexual-based violence, disagreed with this notion. He argued that many men are also uninformed about contraceptives, their effectiveness, and potential side effects. According to Mensah, some men express uncertainty about the credibility of contraceptive options.
He said, “I have come across men who say they don’t know if contraceptive options are true or not. Most of us men do not understand the dynamics, and when we say we want five kids, the burden is left to the women. When it comes to antenatal care, we need to find out why men are not so much involved.”
Mensah emphasized the need to educate men effectively so that they can make informed decisions about contraceptives and contribute to the choices made within their relationships.
Amanda also pointed out that a shortage of contraceptives in many healthcare facilities has a significant impact on young people. This shortage has forced them to resort to alternative methods that may not be their preferred choice.
“We have had to refer people all the way from Luzira to Komamboga for an IUD. Options are limited, and they are forced to go into others that don’t work well for them,” Amanda explained.
P’ayala attributed the limited access to contraceptives to societal and structural reasons, as well as funding issues. He noted that people with disabilities are often considered asexual, despite being sexually active. Additionally, shortages of essential family planning supplies are partly due to limited funding.
“People with disabilities are considered asexual, and yet they are sexually active. We have issues of stock out of key commodities because of limited funding for family planning equipment,” he disclosed.