The Family Planning Discrimination Women Experience



The very first doctor, I mentioned family planning to, asked, “How many kids do you have?” When I replied two back then but added that they were twins, he said okay and handed over the literature containing all the family planning methods, none of which I settled on back them, thanks to procrastination and my husband’s unsupportive stance on the matter.

When I requested for information about birth control options, the second time around, the nurse in charge of the family planning unit asked all the women who had also come for the same purpose, how many children they have had and gave a breakdown of the suitable plan, based on the number of living children each woman had had.

Interestingly, women with only one child were not advised to be on any birth control pill but women with two children were pitched the idea of going on pills, with three month or six month interval injections, depending on their preference, and they could do this for as long as they wanted. The rationale being, it was easy for a woman to return to her fertile state shortly after coming off these injections, but ironically most women are still suffering the side effects of such choices till date.

And for chairwomen like me and other women, some of whom have had up to 8 children, then methods like IUD, hormonal implants in the arm and even tubal ligation were pitched.

In all honestly, I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that contraceptives were mostly available to married women, but not to sexually active ladies, something that is obtainable in other climes. I guess, you could say, it is married women’s privileges.

However, I came across Sylvia, who has already given birth to two children by two different men, with a third on the board already by yet another man, and she said she had been denied tubal ligation. In fact, she was opting for an elective C-section, which makes tubal ligation easier, but she was refused, on the grounds that she has just two children and is still so young and such a procedure would put paid to any more child-bearing plans in her future. Talk about using Panadol for someone else’s headache.

Sylvia is 27 years old but her life experiences are way older than she is.  From an early stage, she had fallen in with the wrong crowd; drinking, partying and sex were what they got high on.  It was also the bane of their lives. Unfortunately, all of these things have side effects. Drinking destroyed their health, partying wasted their time and sex, especially unprotected sex, resulted in babies.

That was how Sylvia ended up with two baby daddies, and a potential one on the way. It was this last man, whom she encountered by chance, who is bringing the right influence into her life, if you can call getting her pregnant and marrying her such. From living on the streets and abandoning her children with her parents, Sylvia started coming home, paying more attention to her children and generally being more present. Something her mother picked up on and commented on, because she knew that her daughter comes home more when she is pregnant.

It was a hard pill for her mother to swallow. She couldn’t understand where she had gone wrong with raising Sylvia. Apart from being pregnant, there was something calm about her and this was explained when the man responsible for her current pregnancy came and showed himself to her parents and stated that his  intentions towards her were honourable and he would have preferred to do things the conventional way, but he was willing to remedy the situation . He did. They got married and as the pregnancy progressed, Sylvia started to read up about family planning methods and the one that appealed to her more was the tubal ligation.

Interestingly, her husband didn’t mind. Her doctor, when she explained her life story to him, saw reasons for her opting for a tubal ligation. But there was a problem. He would prefer not to do it. His reason? She was too young and she might regret such a definitive procedure later.

So, Sylvia carried her pregnancy till term, had her baby and was offered other methods of contraceptive instead.  It wasn’t what she wanted but it was what she was offered, so she made do.

Mom and child vector illustration. Happy family. Single mom with child

One of the ladies I met on the day I had my IUD inserted, I will call her Mosun. You see, Mosun is a single babe but not to the nurse manning the unit. To them, she was a married mother of three, who came for her shot every three months.

Mosun was a single mom of a teenage son back then, and was actively dating and sometimes sex came up. She was merely protecting herself from another unwanted pregnancy and telling them what they, the morally upright folks at the unit, wanted to hear.

But beyond telling them what they wanted to hear, shouldn’t a woman be able to determine what mode of contraceptive she wants any time of her reproductive life? Without hearing a lecture about how she would regret her action later, or how single women shouldn’t be trying to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy, instead they should just abstain?

While you give a thought to the questions above, I will leave you with a Facebook comment I found from a woman, who was asked to get her husband’s written consent to tie her tubes at 35 years of age.

Since she didn’t have a husband anymore, she couldn’t have the procedure, even though she had birthed four children.

Exactly who is the discrimination helping? Folks like me with four children and a husband, or the many single baby mamas that our society seems to be churning out these days?

Food for thought ladies…and of course, our men.



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