After falling pregnant twice in two years. Chiamaka knew she had to do something. She did not want to be surprised with a third pregnancy, and have three kids all under three years old to care for.
She took herself off to the hospital, and one look at her entourage, the nurses knew why she had come – birth control. They went ahead to give her some counselling, detailing all the different methods available, their advantages and disadvantages. Not forgetting their usage.
Chiamaka was not paying any attention when they were talking about pills, the monthly birth control shots, or even the three monthly shots, but when the discussion moved to the hormonal implants and IUD that could last between 2 to 5 years, she paid attention, smiled and actively asked questions.
In the end, she settled on two options; she would start with the three month shots first and see how her body reacts, after which she would progress to the hormonal implants that will be inserted just beneath her upper arm.
The first time she got the injection, it lasted for the promised three months. Not wanting to make a definite commitment to the hormonal implants, she got another injection, and was even beginning to accept that she might become a third monthly visitor to her hospital when she found out that she was pregnant. She had all her classic pregnancy symptoms, most notably being extra tired, which she put down to having to care for two babies. She had fainting spells, which she struck out with the fact that she had not been eating that well. She kept discounting all the symptoms until it was time for another shot. And as per normal routine, a pregnancy test was conducted, and the result was not one she wanted to hear.
She was ten weeks pregnant. She had gotten pregnant just as the effects of the last shot she took was wearing off, and the other was kicking in. Now, she wondered if it would not have been better if she had gone for the hormonal implants, because at least with that one, before the effects would wear off, her babies would be older and maybe, just maybe, she would not have been so sad to be pregnant again. Moreso, she now had to worry about the effect of the birth control shots on her unborn baby.
Another incidence of failed birth control was the story that I heard from my Mom, about a woman, who got pregnant, even though, she had an IUD in place. It was the old one made from copper, whose secretion into the womb makes it uncomfortable for an embryo to implant. Fortunately or unfortunately, this particular embryo implanted and stuck like glue, and as it grew, it displaced the copper T. My mom said the baby was born with the copper T in his right hand and the hand had been rotting away becuase of the effect of the copper in the hand. I was a teenager when she told me that story, and it was not an idle tale. It was one meant to instil the fear of God in me.
The moral of the story was, this woman, who had become a new mom by force was a widow, albeit a young one, with two kids already, but she was also dating and searching for a man who would marry her, and accept her children. She did not intend to get pregnant before she had some semblance of order in her life, but since she was still sexually active, she had the Copper T inserted. But it did not work out as planned. Every one had proof that she had been “promiscuous”, which was why I was told her story. Nothing worked, if God wanted to expose you, was the message, and I got it loud and clear.
Birth control methods are numerous, and often when a failure occurs, the doctors, and manufacturers of the product, usually believe that it is because it was not used as directed. That is especially the case with pills. Most women have been ridiculed as a result of its failure. They were tagged careless, irresponsible for a failure that was anything but intentional.
Margaret knows how that feels. She got pregnant with her fourth child after a slip up with the pills. She fell ill, and was put on antibiotics, to battle the infection that was ravaging her body. While she continued to take her pills at the same time, it was rather a futile effort. The antibiotics had rendered them useless. She got pregnant, and all hell was let loose in her home. Her husband refused to believe she had not deliberately gotten pregnant; not even, when they calculated the dates together and it had happened around the time, she was recuperating. Her mother wondered if she was on a suicide mission, as she had to deal with hypertension during pregnancy, for all her previous pregnancies.
Her friends were looking at her askance, and asking, “Babe, what’s up? I thought you said you were done with having kids.” After telling the closest of her friends, it was a slip up, which had resulted in raised eyebrows, she had stopped answering questions. After all, it was none of their business. But she was bitter and angry at finding out she was pregnant again, even as she had protected herself for the last two years with the same pills without a single incident.
Misuse and failure of birth control are major contributors to the millions of unplanned pregnancies in the United States each year, and although there are no accurate figures for Nigeria, it is safe, to assume that the stories of the women above are more common than expected.
For the sake of research, whenever failure rates of contraceptives are mentioned, they usually refer to a given year of use. Less understood is that the risk of failure is compounded over time. The longer any method of contraception is used, the greater the probability of unplanned pregnancy — the same way that any small risk, taken repeatedly, grows in likelihood. This is true for all contraception methods; pills, spermicide, IUCD, hormonal implant, depo provera, withdrawal, condoms, name it, even in the highly unlikely event that they are used perfectly, every time. It could also be because, the longer a contraceptive measure is used, the more time the body has to get used to it and possibly develop resistance to it, not to mention that if its a hormone implant or the New IUCDs, whose effects can wear off as the year’s go by.
Hence, a back up plan might not be amiss, if you are on any of the birth control methods, to ensure that everything works as planned in the end.
However, if an unplanned pregnancy happens, before you start to lament the fact that you are unprepared and all the other reasons that will come to mind, spare a thought for the one in six women, who can’t get pregnant like you. And they are not on any birth control.
Food for thought!
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