The truth about contraceptives and Filipinos
Everyone has the right to a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life. This is what the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes reproductive health means.
The Philippine constitution also upholds that idea through the RH Bill 2012. Under the RH Bill, the Department of Health oversees the buying and distribution of safe contraceptives to health clinics all over the country. The main idea is that the constitution supports the right of parents to choose how they want to plan their family.
But before anything else, what are contraceptives? According to the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contraceptives are methods that lower unintended pregnancy.
The contraceptives that are considered safe to use include hormonal contraceptive, intra-uterine devices, injectable products and others. But with plenty of choices available for women, how can women know which ones are the best for them?
Types of contraceptives
Here is a guide for everyone who would like to discover the differences, pros and cons among general types of contraception:
1. Intra-uterine contraception. In this method, a small device (IUD) is inserted inside the uterus. There are two types: the copper IUD and the LNg IUD. Depending on the type used, it can last from five to 12 years. It prevents the sperm from reaching the egg or prevents the implantation of the fertilised egg. There are two types: the copper IUD and hormonal IUD.
Pros: This method is fast acting and, unlike pills which women have to remember to take every day, can be left alone. Those who want to be pregnant can also reverse this method instantly.
Cons: After the device has expired, the IUD has to be removed and replaced. This method is not recommended to those who have cervical cancer or cancer of the uterus and others. Bleeding can occur at times, and it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI).
2. Hormonal methods. Ovulation is the process during the menstrual cycle wherein women release egg cells. Ovulation is ruled by hormones, and these hormones can be controlled through hormonal birth control methods.
There are many types of hormonal methods available, including combined oral contraceptives (popularly known as ‘the pill’), progestin-only pill, patch, contraceptive or vaginal ring, injectable birth control, implantable rods and emergency contraceptive pills.
Pros: Foreplay and intercourse are not interrupted in this method. Cramping and pain during ovulation can be prevented with this method. It can also lessen periods significantly, especially when shots or implants are used.
Cons: Consistency and accuracy are needed when these methods are used, especially when it comes to pills. Because this method also changes hormonal balance in the body, it may lead to side effects like reduction of milk supply, increase diabetes risk, headaches, weight gain and others. This method also does not protect against STI.
3. Barrier methods. This method prevents the sperm from entering the uterus. Examples include male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges and spermicides. These are either inserted inside the vagina or are slipped around the penis before intercourse.
Pros: Most of these products can be bought over the counter, making them the most accessible and easy to use out of all types of contraceptives. Some barrier contraceptives also give an amount of protection against STI if used properly.
Cons: Misuse and breakage or tears during intercourse means barrier methods give no absolute guarantee that they can protect against STIs or prevent pregnancies. Some spermicides may also irritate the vagina. Its insertion may also disrupt foreplay and intercourse.
4. Sterilisation. This method offers permanent birth control because they usually involve surgery on the reproductive organs. Some examples include tubal ligation (surgical) and trans-cervical sterilisation (non-surgical) for women that prevent the meeting of egg and sperm and vasectomy (surgical) for men that prevents the release of sperm.
Pros: Because this method disables the parts of the organs that make fertilisation possible, it is very effective as birth control. It also does not interfere with intercourse, does not require repetitive application and has few long term side effects.
Cons: Compared to other contraceptives, sterilisation is irreversible in most cases and may cause regret among those who have resorted to it.
Contraceptive use among Filipinos
In the Philippines, one reason contraceptives are not yet used freely is opposition from sectors like the church. While the RH Bill has already been signed into law, it cannot be implemented yet because of pending cases filed by its opponents.
Statistics reveal that among women, use of contraceptives has not changed so much compared to the last decade. Lack of education on reproductive health methods is pointed as the biggest culprit behind this.
In general, both Filipino men and women generally approve of contraceptives. However, when taken in the context of a relationship, men think about contraceptives differently than women. Men believe that condoms, for example, could lessen pleasure during intercourse. Meanwhile, women still fear that some contraceptives could lead to cancer or infertility.
According to chairman Dr Sylvia de las Alas-Carnero of the Far Eastern University’s Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation Medical Center Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Filipinos often get the wrong information about contraceptives. She said education from the right sources can help Filipinos be more informed about reproductive health methods.
Ultimately, men and women should not be afraid of trying birth control methods after getting the right knowledge on how to use them.