In a bid to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, experts have urged government to increase access to family planning commodities on this year’s World Contraceptive Day.
The need to increase contraceptive use among sexually active people in Nigeria is critical to reducing unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. According to the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS 2013), about 23 percent of teenage girls between ages 15 and 19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child, while half of the women between ages 25 and 49 years were already married by age 18 and 61 percent were married by age 20.
Also, the sexual and reproductive behavioural pattern of Nigerians show that women and men tend to initiate sexual activity before marriage. These lifestyle, coupled with high fertility and low contraceptive prevalence rate, typically lead to unintended pregnancies, close births spacing and high-risk births.
Nigeria’s maternal mortality ratio currently stands at 576 per 100,000 live births and a World Health Organisation (WHO) report titled ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality’ had reported in May this year that Nigeria lost about 40,000 women due to child birth in 2013, a figure which is second to India’s.
In a statement released by Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), the Advocacy Advisor, Mrs. Charity Ibeawuchi, said, “The young persons who form the majority among the women of reproductive age should be encouraged to space pregnancies and childbirths. The adolescents and youths in Nigeria are faced with gross challenges of sexual and reproductive ill-health as a result of their inability to access relevant information and services. In particular, adolescent girls are more vulnerable to health problems arising from under-age child bearing, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, sexual exploitation and abuse which consequently contribute to the high maternal morbidity and mortality.”
With low contraceptive prevalence rate of 10% and high fertility rate of 5.5, there is strong indication that only a few Nigerian women are using modern family planning methods for spacing or limiting pregnancies. ”A woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being as well as on the outcome of each pregnancy,” said the WHO.
Ibeawuchi urged the Nigerian government and other key stakeholders to take cognisance of the challenges associated with being an adolescent and young. “We must increase commitment to such investments that effectively equip and increase the potential of young people to safeguard their future,” she said.
Furthermore, access to contraceptives should be corroborated with appropriate information, policies and commitments that would encourage young people to make important decisions concerning their lives, wellbeing and future.
The World Contraception Day (WCD) is celebrated around the world each year on September 26th. It is a worldwide campaign whose vision is a world where every pregnancy is wanted. Launched in 2007, its mission is to improve the awareness of contraception and to enable young people to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health.