Home » Health Services » Mudede May Have a Point On Contraceptives

Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede earlier in the week torched a storm when he called on Government to ban contraceptives — which have become the key word in family planning. The RG in calling for a ban, said he had consulted some medical experts who corroborated his assertions that contraceptives have some harmful side-effects. He went on to allege that the use of contraceptives is killing productive women and also affecting the country’s population growth.

Reactions came in fast and furious after Mr Mudede’s calls. Others went as far as asking if the RG wished to usurp Minister of Health and Child Care Minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa’s, powers and duties by dabbling in issues that are very much heath-related. Those who champion the cause of women were quiet offended by his remarks and dismissed him as a raving lunatic who refuses to see the benefits of contraceptives, key among them being the way they allow women to develop themselves away from the home.

Contraceptives, according to programmers, are essential in family planning. They allow men and women to plan their families and to take breaks in between having children, thereby allowing women to heal and recover after childbirth.

These breaks are reported to be good at promoting good infant and children’s health while effectively cutting down on the deaths of mothers and babies.

Just imagine a situation where a woman has a child year in and year out? Her own health may begin to suffer while her immunity may be compromised.

Quite evidently, she would also not be able to pursue other interests such as furthering her education, going up the career ladder or taking up an area of interest like golf or knitting. Contraceptives, which include a cocktail of products such as condoms, oral contraceptives and injectables, provide that opportunity for women to focus on other areas of life apart from child-rearing. After all, women are more than baby-making machines.

In today’s world, they leave the house at the same time that men do, if not earlier.

In some cases they are the breadwinners. In many homes both the father and mother’s incomes are important. As a result, women can barely stay home to raise the children that they already have. They just have the maternity leave as stipulated by labour laws and rush back to work so the family can eat. Those in informal employment rarely take the maternity leave as they are in a rush to get back to work.

Truth be told very few people today can afford to just have children as and when they come. Many have sacrificed dreams of having large families because it is just not feasible. First of all, even the health care costs that come with expecting a baby are huge. The baby also comes at a cost. When they grow and start school, the costs balloon. Housing, clothing, food and health care are things that every child needs.

This is why many Zimbabweans are opting for family planning where they plan the number of children they want and when they want to have them. Contraceptives allow this to be possible.

But Mr Mudede’s points cannot just be ignored, can they? He says these contraceptives are harmful. Being a woman of reproductive age who also uses these contraceptives, I naturally got curious.

I looked at almost all the methods of contraception and found that all of them like every other medicine, have side-effects but these do not affect every user.

The side effects also vary in intensity. I asked a couple of gynaecologists and looked at my own experience where every product that is locally available caused severe side-effects until my gynaecologist aised me to use a foreign product, whose cost is quite prohibitive for something I must take daily. Thus to an extent, the RG has some points. Careful reading of instruction booklets on most oral contraceptives will show a section where possible side-effects are listed. These include weight loss, increased chance of getting breast or cervical cancer, weight gain, nervous system disorders, skin disorders, libido decrease, eye problems, vomiting and abdominal pains.

When I first saw these on a pack or oral tablets, I stopped taking them. I was scared. After all, who wants to take something that can possibly cause cancer? It took several doctors sitting me down and explaining that every medicine probably has side-effects but still it has medicinal effects.

The side-effects do not affect everyone and certainly not in the same ways because people are different. Different products also work or react differently in different people.

Thus, I was aised to find the best product for me. I was also told how the benefits outweigh the risks. But there are many of my colleagues who battle with weight gain because of contraceptives. Some no longer have any interest in sex. Many have succumbed to cervical and breast cancer.

It certainly seems there is more of it around now. Thus Mr Mudede’s remarks must not just be dismissed. The issue of side-effects provides health experts and programme people, including donors with room to do better in terms of distributing products that women will use without fear as well as educating communities about the contraceptive options available.

For example, if pills and injectables are not the best for a couple they should be aised to use condoms which also offer protection against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Let there be education and massive roll-out of all sorts of contraceptives so that one picks on the best method for them.

It is not a good feeling to take something that makes one sick or fat. Neither is it good for women to take products with warnings about possible problems, which include cancer. When we begin to hear reports that cancer is fast overtaking HIV as a leading killer and that cervical cancer is top of the list, we begin to connect the dots.


Source : The Herald