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Contraception – Why do we need to talk about it?

 

I was a little kid – 7 or 8 years old when my grandmother’s nurse, on her arrival from her remote village near Gujranwala told me that they had a new baby in the family – a ninth girl. Oblivious to what that meant in terms of finances and health to that household, I asked her all the babyish details. How tiny is she? Whom does she resemble to? How much does she cry? Does she smile or laugh or crawl or walk as yet?

Today, even when an affluent family has a baby, be it their first or fourth, aren’t these the only concerns baby visitors talk about – the gender, the complexion, the looks and resemblance, future plans (Is he going to be a doctor or an engineer? And then they usually close with an unceasing list of benefits of having kids close in age. How they bond well and how one gets done with the toughest years of pregnancies and child rearing, rather quickly. Oh and how can we forget the bundles of unsolicited and mostly outdated and refuted parenting advice?

What didn’t baffle the little kid almost two decades ago, does astound the grown-up, thirty years old mother of two. Will there ever be a time when people start thinking “before” having kids; be it their 9th or 3rd or 1st? Will they ever understand that having kids is more than just a physical process of reproduction and birth? Will they ever realize what sheer load of responsibility it is, to bring a soul in this world and cater to his emotional well-being in addition to physical wellness? When will they start feeling for the very person who nurtures that tiny little being inside her body, (sometimes using her own energy reservoirs), only to be left with half of energy and perhaps double the workload once getting done with nerve wrecking job of actually delivering the baby?

Let us add some basic numbers to the picture. A quick look at drop of birth rate in Pakistan i.e. Total Fertility Rate (TFR per woman) from 6.6 in 1950 to 3.65 in 2017[1] may make the situation look less troublesome than it is. What should not be forgotten is that Pakistan today has a population of approximately 200 million, which makes it sixth most populous country in the world. The crude birth rate in Pakistan is 28 per 1000, which is still way above global average of 18 per 1000. And to make things worse, let us also note that in this very population, 58.8 percent children and 52 percent of women of reproductive age are anemic. Moreover, approximately 31 % children are underweight (2012, World Bank data), approximately 23 million children are out of school and this is second highest in the world. Women have trouble accessing basic health care. And according to latest data, contraception prevalence rate in Pakistan is 35 % whereas the global average for same measure is 62%[2].

The most unfortunate aspect of this picture is that contraception is still considered a hush-hush topic, even in the so called educated class of our society. The situation further exacerbates when one actually tries to find out the awareness levels in lower echelons of society i.e. the poor class. Contraception is still considered a taboo to talk about. People would rather terminate an unwanted pregnancy without considering the havoc it does to the women’s health, rather than getting the right education and actually implementing it to stop that pregnancy if it was so unwanted at first place.

Our general masses need to be educated with the fact that there should not be any taboo attached to choosing a decent number of kids. And that the decision should be, and easily can be, independent of fulfilling your physical needs. Especially when the price paid is huge – in terms of unwanted kids, abortions, poor health of mothers, the cost of educating kids and maintaining a reasonable standard of living; and the vicious circle goes on.

Furthermore, men need to understand the huge toll child bearing and child rearing takes on a woman’s health. Women, on the other hand, need to reckon that having a say in family planning is their basic right. The couple and the extended family needs to comprehend that getting married should not be just about producing a dozen of kids. Each of a dozen kids has bright chances of turning into an adult with psychological issues because the very precious childhood years were not adequately nurtured; as mama was very busy delivering more siblings. The number of kids a couple has should not be a competition. The quality of brought up, the value system instilled in them and the goodness in heart that only a parent can inculcate should be the ultimate parenting goals.

The dire need of the hour is thus to break the stereotypes and actually create awareness that just because it is related to sex; it has to be a shameful topic. Shame should be in abortions. Shame should be in killing infants. Shame should be in being unable to provide for them and raise them properly. Shame should by no means be in adopting wise contraceptive ways that have almost zero side effects. Klimax is one such brand in Pakistani market that has dared to broach this tricky issue in a sensible way. The added advantage of using condoms is prevention from sexually transmitted infections which is another Pandora box.

The message is clear and much needed: better communicate, educate, understand and safeguard, rather than suffer later on. There should not be any shame in creating awareness about something so natural to continuation of human race – if and as long as it is implemented in a decent and safe manner, which is exactly the goal of Klimax.

[1] http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/pakistan-population/

[2] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CONU.ZS?end=2017&start=1961&view=chart

 

The author of this blog is Rabia Numan. Rabia is an MBA degree holder from FAST Business School, Lahore. Currently she is a stay-at-home mother to two adorable kids. She has also been associated with the Rausing Executive Development Centre (REDC) and Assessment Strengthening Programme (A USAID project), both in LUMS. Rabia has recently ventured into the field of blogging and blogs at adaughterandamother.com. She loves to write about her experiences of being a daughter and a mother, and plans to create an information hub for women through her website. Social issues have been close to her heart and she aims to voice her concerns over various social problems. She can be reached at rabiasaeed18@gmail.com.

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