Engaging men in Family Planning (FP) has been found to directly influence the partner’s reproductive health choices, decision-making and behaviours.
While there have been few published evaluations of interventions that seek to address the promotion of male involvement in family planning, evidence indicates that most men in Nigeria have a positive attitude towards family planning but are faced with barriers to their participation.
However, if Nigeria is to achieve increase in the Modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate, (MCPR) to 27 precent by 2020, there is need to seek ways to promote male participation in family planning.
Speaking on the place of the male in family planning, Mr. Okeoma Uchendu is of the opinion that male involvement in family planning has a critical role in the success and growth of the family, adding that a lot of societies are structured in a way that without the approval of men, women have very little choice in their contraception.
According to him, “I have my fears with family planning methods especially the hormonal contraception. The fear of my wife adding too much weight puts me off. Though, I use condom but it’s not 100% reliable.”
Also, Mr. Ademola Samson, who resides in Ogba, Ikeja told our correspondent that, “I am fully involved in family planning with my wife. In planning a progressive family, the husband involvement is not negotiable, hence, it is an action that will play a critical role in the success of whatever method of family planning we decide.”
According to Samson, he approved the contraception method of choice by his partner. “I encourage families to also adopt any of the family planning methods namely; withdrawal, use of condoms, implant, Intra Uterine Device and even vasectomy. This will ensure the family planning programme is participatory and successful.”
On the other hand, another interviewee, Mr. Ojocheneme Balogun, in expressing his fears revealed that due to myths and misconceptions surrounding modern method of family planning such as promiscuity, infertility amongst others, he objected his wife from adopting any method, but stated that, “we use withdrawal method. I have studied my wife’s cycle. I know when to have sex with her and when not to.
“It’s painstaking but I have to because I don’t want her to have a baby when she is not prepared. It has been working for us. We have three children now and they are properly spaced.”
Various factors pose as barriers to men’s participation in family planning, they include; fear of side effects for partners, lack of time for FP activities, lack of access to source of FP methods, the belief that FP encourages child limiting rather than child spacing, fear for partner becoming promiscuous, and the fear of immediate return to fertility after FP use.
However, for family planning programmes and interventions seeking to promote male involvement in the use of modern contraption, it should be sensitive to socio-cultural norms that determine gender relations.
Various strategies to creating awareness on male involvement in FP issues should be given priority at the clinical and community levels, with the aim of increasing the number of adopters of male participation in family planning and these strategic approach may include; seminars and media (mass media like radio jingles/drama, bulk sms and print medium).
Many societies have a patriarchal structure that without the men’s approval of any FP method, women has little or no choice in their contraception. In a study in Cambodia where there was a high level of knowledge and accessibility to contraceptives, women were more likely to use contraceptive if they perceived their husband’s approval and if they felt there was an ease of communication between them.
Beyond men’s involvement in choosing to use male contraceptive methods of vasectomy or condoms, they should also be included in family planning discussions and counseling generally to encourage or facilitate women’s contraceptive choice.
Reproductive choices are imperative to a healthy pregnancy and healthy children. Involving men in these choices removes a common barrier to women’s common barrier to the use of family planning contraceptive, which in turn, empowers women and girls in all aspects of their lives.
Using any of the family planning methods will help curb maternal and child deaths, prevent unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion as well as improve the economic status of the family.
Speaking to a family planning provider, the Chief Nursing Officer at Ibafon Primary Health Care Centre (PHC) in Lagos, Mrs Cecilia Oluborode, said, “There has been an increase in awareness about family planning and its benefits. With the overwhelming increase in the country’s population coupled with limited resources to provide for the needs of the people, there is dire need for family planning advocacy.
When asked if men accompany their wives to the family planning clinic, Oluborode said, “men who are interested in family planning come here and ask questions on how they can access it for themselves or their partners. People willingly come for counselling, testing and to access any of these planning methods in the clinic.
She revealed that prior to this time, the clinic would see three or four persons per month coming to access a family planning method but now, we attend to 15 or more people monthly.
Director, Family Planning and Nutrition Department, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr Folashade Oludara, said “some men have had to embarrass the health workers in our health facilities for inserting family planning commodities to their wives without their consent.”
However, she said, it is very important to involve men in family planning to achieve increase in the use of modern contraception in the country.
Oludara stated, “the government has gone further to add family planning as part of basic comprehensive health care services to be rendered at entry level ones the Lagos State health insurance scheme starts later this year. The scheme also includes private health sector which will give it high coverage.”
According to her, “a lot of our family planning programs are funded by donors since the government cannot do everything. Just like the State health insurance, the government has promised 1percent consolidated revenue fund to be used for the poor. The State family planning department’s allocated budget for 2018 was N186 million and this is in order to make commodities available and increase uptake in the State.”
She charged the media to educate the male through various medium, advising that the positive impact of family planning to the family and the country should be the main focus
She further stressed that the media should correct the socio- cultural myths that any woman who embraces family planning is promiscuous but rather family planning prevents maternal deaths by 34 percent and it does that by preventing unwanted pregnancy.