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Is it possible to avoid unwanted pregnancies?

 Can you prevent unwanted pregnancies? (Photo: iStock)

The vast majority of pregnancies catch most women unawares. Suspicion of pregnancy only becomes apparent when a period is missed, and a pregnancy test turns unexpectedly positive.

For some, the stage gets set for hurried plans to accommodate the unplanned pregnancy. For others, dilemmas arise about what to do with an undesired pregnancy. Such scenarios should rarely arise as getting pregnant is a predictable event for the majority.

Modern and effective contraceptives are readily available to negate taking chances with unwanted pregnancies. The range is so wide that almost everybody will find a contraceptive method that works for them. Pills, injectables, patches, implants, and coils are available in most health facilities.

Male and female condoms are readily available too. Appropriate use of effective contraception remains the single most important tool for avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

Those not on regular contraceptives can opt for emergency measures after unprotected intercourse. An over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pill can protect against unwanted pregnancy if used promptly. Contraceptive coils can also be fitted as an emergency measure several days after unprotected intercourse. Those repeatedly using emergency contraception should instead settle for a longer-term contraceptive.

So what happens if you find yourself with an unwanted pregnancy? You should make decisions with your partner on what to do. Some females may not have supportive partners, and all decisions may solely be on themselves. Carrying on with the pregnancy is an obvious option, in which case you should make plans to commence antenatal care.

If your circumstances cannot allow you to continue with an unplanned pregnancy, your choices are rather limited. The current legal status in Kenya outlaws pregnancy terminations on social grounds. Getting a termination done in the backstreets can be a morbid mistake. Keep all your options open, seek medical and psychological support, and eventually make a decision you could live with. Some have carried on with undesired pregnancies to the end and eventually given the children up for adoption.

Reproductive health education, especially for teens and adolescents, has been proven effective in the reduction of teenage pregnancies. It helps the young ones understand their own sexuality, and the steps they can take to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Our teenagers are unlikely to stay celibate, so we should educate them on safe sex practices, the use of condoms, and other alternate contraceptives. Should they become pregnant prematurely, we should support rather than ostracize them.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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