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Why it's important to get medical help when choosing a contraceptive

 Contraceptives. [iStockphoto]

When, Mary, a mother of two, chose to have a contraceptive implanted in her arm, she had no idea what effect it would have on her.

"I chose the three-year implant after a friend advised me to go in that direction," Mary says.

Two years down the line, Mary started experiencing frequent abnormalities; severe headaches that were accompanied by daily spotting daily and heavy flow during her menstrual period.

"Sometimes, it was hard to run my business. The symptoms were making me scared and uncomfortable. I had to go back to my gynaecologist so that the implant could be removed because I couldn't stand it anymore," Mary explains.

For Frieda, her choice of contraceptive was dictated by her desire for privacy and control.

"I was using a three-month Depo injection (Depo-Provera a contraceptive injection that contains the hormone progestin) as my preferred family planning method," Frieda says.

She says she chose the contraceptive because she had started using it without her husband's consent.

"It was a difficult decision for me. I wanted to maintain my marriage and take care of my kids at the same time but I didn't want to give birth to another child just yet. Taking care of several young children at the same time is not easy," Frieda states.

Cylus Momanyi, a consultant gynaecologist based in Nairobi says that even though family planning is a personal decision, it is wise to seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner before settling on a method.

"It is their choice. Clients have to choose which family planning they prefer. Our work is to advise them based on the diagnosis we would have carried out," Momanyi explains.

He says that some categories of people do not qualify for certain family planning methods: those with high blood pressure or who are overweight, those using ARVS and those who are breastfeeding.

He adds that clients considering the Intra Uterine Contraceptive Device or IUCD (coil), for example, should also know that this method is not for everyone.

"Some clients are limited on using the coil because they have what we call a retroverted (tilted backwards) uterus. How their uterus is structured does not favour them," he explains.

Dr Momanyi stresses that there is no family planning method, be it hormonal or non-hormonal, that is superior to the other.

"There is no good and there is no bad family planning, it only depends on the need of the patient. I cannot administer the same family planning to a fifty-year-old woman who doesn't need a baby and a teenage young girl whose hormones are active," Momanyi said.

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