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Women’s use of contraceptives

Experts worried that there hasn’t been progress in over 2 years

Kampala, Uganda | Patricia Akankwatsa | The prevalence of modern contraceptive use among women of reproductive age has been on the rise in the past years but experts are worried that it is not making progress.

According to results from the annual survey in which researchers at Makerere University measured key family planning indicators since 2020, there has been no change overall in the rate of use among both unmarried and married women. The researchers found only an average annual increase of 1.3% which does not make statistical significance.

The survey was jointly done by the Ministry of Health, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), and the School of Public Health.

Dr Charles Olaro, the Director of Curative Services in the Ministry of Health said that even as the figures for women using contraceptives are still low, a lot of progress has been recorded. He said misinformation, however, remains a major challenge.

He said more counselling is needed; especially among first-timers, and that targeting women to enrol on family planning should start at the health facility since statistics are showing 80% of the 1.5 million babies delivered in Uganda each year happen at a health facility.

“Women may not have enough education about the benefits of contraceptives and may not fully understand how to use them effectively,” he said.

According to the survey, only 46% of the women who were pregnant during the time of the first phase of the study in 2020 enrolled on family planning in phase two of the study in 2021. In the following phase, only 47% of those that were pregnant were using a method of family planning in 2022. Up to 4% of those that did not enroll on family planning immediately got a repeat pregnancy a year after.

Dr Simon Kibira, one of the researchers on the survey, says some women may have limited access to contraceptives, especially in rural areas.

“ This could make it difficult for them to continue using contraceptives after giving birth,” he says.

Experts partly attribute this low uptake to the gaps in family planning counselling. According to Dr Betty Kyaddondo who heads the National Population Council, giving guidance to women on what methods are available immediately after delivery or abortion is very important but this continues to be marred by misconceptions. She says healthcare managers have not paid much attention to it.

“Women who use contraceptives may face stigma and discrimination from their families and communities, making it difficult for them to access and use modern contraceptives. This has been particularly prevalent in rural areas,” she said.

“It’s important for healthcare providers and policymakers in Uganda to address these factors and provide education, counselling, and access to quality family planning services to help prevent unintended pregnancies among girls and women using contraceptives,” she says.

She says most women are making family planning choices through what their peers tell them rather than through what health workers tell them.

Dr Richard Mugahi, Assistant Commissioner in charge of Reproductive and Infant Health, says that although women do not uptake contraceptives, there is an issue of a small budget allocated for the purchase of contraceptives.

He said that Shs22 billion is allocated to reproductive health commodities but only Shs 5.5 billion goes towards contraceptives as the biggest chunk of the money is used to purchase mama kits.

The most commonly used contraceptives are injectables. 12% of women reported using injectables as their primary contraceptive method. This was followed by implants at 7%, pills at 5%, and male condoms at 6%.

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