By DORIS KATHIA
Kenya is a young population, with more than three quarters of the people aged below 35 years, and over 12.7 million adolescents, many of whom want to avoid pregnancy but do not use effective contraception methods.
Myths and misconceptions about contraception prevails, with social media being the primary influence and source of information on contraceptive use among young people globally.
Adolescents and young people who are unfamiliar with contraception methods are concerned that a particular method will render them infertile or reduce their childbearing capacity. Some myths, such as contraception reducing a woman’s libido, causing her to gain weight, or harming her health, should be dispelled.
It is critical to recognize that all medicines have side effects, and women must understand that a contraceptive that worked for one woman may not work for another.
Although many young people start having sex at a young age, service providers are hesitant to give them contraception. As a result, many adolescents and young women use emergency contraception (E-pills), which causes them more harm than good because these pills have a high hormonal imbalance and can interfere with their health.
Sociocultural norms, religious setbacks, contraception myths and misconceptions, interpersonal relationships, and other issues all have an impact on young women’s contraceptive uptake and use.
Notably, contraceptive use has often been associated with a “Western agenda” due to overreliance on donors and the commodity’s scarcity. Furthermore, low contraceptive use has been attributed to a limited choice of methods, limited access to services, particularly among young, poor, and unmarried people, fear or experience of side effects, poor quality of available services, users’ and providers’ bias against some methods, and gender-based barriers to accessing services.
Other myths that have persisted include:
- If your partner withdraws before ejaculation, you will not become pregnant.
- It is possible to become pregnant if semen is present at the tip of the penis before ejaculation.
- Some people believe that if you have sex while on your period, you cannot become pregnant. It should be noted that ovulation can occur sooner than expected.
Furthermore, sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to five (5) days, making it possible to conceive several days after unprotected sex if you ovulate early. Another myth is that people cannot become pregnant if it is their first-time having sex. The truth is that if an egg meets sperm, it is possible to become pregnant, whether or not this is the first time engaging in sex.
Therefore, the ministry of health must intervene and address the persistent contraceptive knowledge gaps to make a significant contribution to improved contraceptive uptake among young women.
Moral discussions about adolescent sexual activity are ineffective due to two factors. First, regardless of cultural or religious background, young people need to be informed about issues affecting their health, such as the use or non-use of contraceptive methods. This would allow them to make more informed decisions throughout their lives.
Secondly, increasing access to information and services on contraceptive methods will help to overcome the significant barriers that prevent adolescents from using them in Kenya. This will also help to dispel common myths and misconceptions about modern contraception.
Providing equal access to contraception methods for all people advances several human rights, including the right to an education. Contraception reduces the health risks associated with pregnancy for women, particularly adolescent girls.
Ms. Kathia is a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate.