Population and reproductive health has been a growing concern across the globe for decades now. The government already has existing measures to address these concerns but the lack of information and misconceptions on our Reproductive Health Programs serve as barriers in achieving our end goal. Thus the need to educate Filipinos on the importance of reproductive health and correct misconceptions on modern contraception. This is the first step that the government is taking as it intensifies the implementation of its family planning program in the next 4 years.
Access and availability of different contraceptive methods is not a concern for Filipinos because of government programs that are already in place. However, acceptance of these methods is hindered by misconceptions. Perhaps because there is not much talk about reproductive and sexual health issues among Filipino women.
“In this day and age reproductive health remains to be a taboo topic even among women. Many are using contraception for various reasons yet no one is openly talking about it. The stigma on birth control is alive.” – Via Antonio, Actress and Comedienne
This is a sad truth that we must deal with immediately if we want to extend help to those who need it most. Lack of correct information on the use of modern contraceptives is still the number one reason why people opt for the less effective method of family planning. With the help of experts and an open mind, we can bust these myths and misconceptions and have a better understanding of the benefits that modern contraceptives can bring.
“Following the launch of the first World Contraception Day Philippines in 2018, we want to continue the conversation to empower and educate Filipino women and couples to make informed choices about their reproductive and sexual health.” – Jungll Kim, Country Division Head Bayer Pharmaceuticals
Dr. Amity Casurao-Trono, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center QC and Rizal Medical Center, shed light on the myths and misconceptions about modern contraceptives during her “Pillow Talk” session held in Makati. Let us start with a quick rundown of basics in contraceptives.Types of Modern Contraceptives:
- The pill, Intrauterine System (IUS), female sterilization, contraceptive patch, and injections. They are considered as the most effective types of intervention with 99% efficacy when administered correctly and with 100% accuracy. However, the male condom, fertility awareness trackers, and withdrawal method are still the most commonly used. These types of contraceptives only has a 72-82% efficacy.
- Oral contraceptives or the pill still remains to be one of the most effective and preferred form of modern contraceptive among Filipinas. This is because it is considered to be the most convenient form of contraceptive. It is also non-invasive and reversible. There are two types of oral contraceptives. The Combined Oral Contraceptive (COC) and the Mini-pill or Progestin Only Pill (POP). COC contains both progestin and estrogen hormones while the POP contains progestin only.
- Progestin is the main contraceptive ingredient that prevents ovulation. It is able to thin out the uterus lining and thicken the cervical mucus so that the sperm cannot pass through. Ethinyl estradiol, the synthetic female hormone, stabilizes the endometrium and enhances the action of progestin.
Myths about the use of COCs:
- Myth #1: It causes birth defects. It does not! No adverse effects were observed when COCs were accidentally taken during early pregnancy. Past COC use is also not associated with an increase in spontaneous abortions.
- Myth#2: Pills increase cancer risk. Studies have not established strong and direct links between breast cancer and pill usage. In fact the risk of cancer were lowered with the use of COC. Risk for ovarian cancer was reduced by 40%, endometrial cancer by 50%, colorectal cancer by 20%. However pills do not protect your from sexually transmitted diseases.
- Myth#3: Pills make you infertile. Statistics will show that this is a false claim. The truth is that 21% of women get pregnant a month after stopping intake of COC and 79% get pregnant a year after stopping COC.
Plus points for the pill:
- Pills, depending on formulation and indication, can treat a variety of hormone-related conditions and imbalances such as hyperandrogenism, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS), and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) which is a severe and debilitating form of PMS. Over 88% of women receiving COCs report no adverse effects.
- Aside from prevention of unintended pregnancies COCs can also help in reducing estrogen-related fluid retention and bloating because of its anti-mineralocorticoid property. It regulates hormonal problems such as acne, facial hair, and hair loss due to its anti-androgenic quality. Some COC pills also come in a 24/4 regimen that promotes user compliance. Despite the additional benefits, OB-GYNs recommend women to maintain healthy diet and regular exercise to achieve the desired results.
As with other medications, pills also have common side effects that include nausea, breast tenderness, and headaches which are tolerable.
Some contraindications to taking the pills include: presence or history of Deep Vein Thrombosis, Pulmonary Embolism, Myocardial Infarction, Ischemic Stroke, Transient Ischemic Attack, angina, Severe Liver Disease, DM with Vascular Disease, Migraine with Aura, Breast Cancer, Undiagnosed Vaginal Bleeding, known or suspected pregnancy, smokers > 35y/o, severe lipid disease and uncontrolled hypertension.
Statistics show that in 2018 an estimated 25.8% or 7.1 million Filipinas aged 15 to 49 are using modern contraception. This gives us an increase of only 1.2 million users since 2012. To increase the usage of contraceptives among Filipinos, the government announced the implementation of an intensified family planning program nationwide targeting 11.3 million women over the next few years. The objective is to increase usage of contraceptives from 40% to 65 %.
I am not a stranger to pills or modern contraceptives because I used to take pills prescribed by my doctor for my PCOS. My doctor discussed the pros and cons of using pills with me and I agree with the benefits mentioned. Given this, I thought I was already well-informed about modern contraceptives but I still learned a lot during the Pillow Talk. It was a very enlightening and enjoyable talk that I hope other women can also hear. This will enable them to understand and take advantage of the options available for taking care of their reproductive health. As Dr. Casurao-Trono said:
“It’s time for women to take a more active stance in taking control of their reproductive and sexual health. We should be able to normalize these discussions without fear of being shamed or embarrassed”
You can take the first step in taking control of your reproductive and sexual health by getting the correct information from credible sources. Visit http://www.Your-Life.com or https://www.facebook.com/wcdphilippines/ to learn more about contraceptives.