Birth control is free ladies

HARARE - I have always said I want to get pregnant, not fall pregnant.

There is a huge difference between these two things.

After coming across a very hilarious cartoon of a lady vagrant with her five children being given a pack of contraceptive pills by a savvy passer-by, I realised we had not really tackled contraception.

So, this week, we talk all things contraception.

Whose responsibility is it anyway? Should the woman leave it to the man? Exactly what does it entail? I have heard of latex-intolerant people in the same manner that I have heard of women who say they are allergic to certain methods of contraception.

Nothing is as awful as preparing for an unplanned pregnancy, I will not say unwanted because I believe every baby is a gift. However, women have been known to fall pregnant without planning for it. This, however, is very irresponsible.

Before you put the paper down and accuse me of being an elitist insulting columnist, allow me to say that in Zimbabwe, reproductive health consultations are free of charge at public hospitals.

Let us say a woman cannot afford to pay for consultation with a gynaecologist, one can always visit a government hospital for advice.

In any case, I find this excuse laughable, because it is the very same people who claim they cannot afford these consultations who end up “falling” pregnant.

Tell me then, which one is cheaper, walking to the nearest government health institution or having a baby? Do not answer that.

Apart from reproductive health consultations being free of charge in Zimbabwe, the contraceptives are also free! I know for a fact that Jadelle implants are free at Parirenyatwa Hospital and the pill is also given to any woman above 18 years of age . . . as long as you ask.

I almost wept when a colleague spoke of a 25-year-old Harare-based woman who had five children! Five!

He told me the woman was a commercial sex worker who had been “misled by men with promises of marriage.” What in the name of self-respect is this?

If all women had children with every man who promised them marriage, what kind of country would we be? It is very stupid for a woman to have unprotected sex with a man expecting not to “fall” pregnant. It is even more foolish to expect that conception will not happen because you are using the withdrawal method.

So then, why are you my people, not looking for contraception methods best suited for you?

A child is a huge responsibility and it angers me to think we still have adults who play with their reproductive organs without expecting consequences.

Of course, there are those who do not employ contraception for religious reasons…

While it is not my place to speak against this, I hope they have other means because in this economy, it is just foolish to leave the fate of your future children to chance.

It is also important to remember that many women rightfully refuse to use oral contraceptives because of the negative side effects they experience while taking them or because of other health concerns.

For example, women with a familial history of strokes are advised not to use oral contraceptives. But in cases like these, I say do consult and get familiar with the various methods. Maybe the pill is not for you, but you could always try the loop.

With reports that male contraception is well on its way, women around the world must be rejoicing.

Or are they trembling in fear, given the paternal fraud business we discussed a few weeks back?

Vasal gel, male birth control, could be available to the public by 2017 in the form of an injection.

The long awaited male birth control may soon be commonly available. The pill — under development — works in similar fashion to female birth control by lowering sperm count to a level not conducive for conception.

Chemically, the pill is made up of testosterone and progestin, hormones that stop the production of sperm.

Seems like it could literally take a load off women who often shoulder the responsibility of not conceiving a child by taking a pill, having an implant, or an IUD, using a diaphragm or making sure her partner agrees to wear a condom — or has had a vasectomy.

According to Marianne Mollmann who writes for The Huffington Post, the responsibility for birth control has fluctuated historically.

The use of modern contraceptive methods started at least in part as a male project. George Bernard Shaw called rubber condoms the “greatest invention of the 19th century”.

This male control over contraception was seen by some suffrage leaders as immoral, because it made it easier for married men to cheat on their wives.

Later feminists saw access to woman-controlled birth control as essential to advancing women as equals, in particular women from the working classes.

Yet, we still have women in the “working class” who still fall pregnant.

Again, Nehanda did not die for this nonsense! When you have unplanned children, you become a burden to family members.

Who takes the control in your relationship? Who is responsible for contraception? What about past relationships?

I feel that in a relationship, both parties must be responsible for contraception. Anyone who has sexual activity that may result in pregnancy, and who is interested in recreation but not procreation, has a responsibility for bringing contraception.

The same is true for prophylactics, like condoms, to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

In some cases, contraceptive methods are inherently controlled by one partner or the other.

For example, women can get a prescription for and take hormonal birth control; men cannot (at this time). However, this does not mean that men should not participate in making the decision of what contraception to use and share in covering the cost.

In fact, communicating about and sharing responsibility for contraception can definitely pave the way for mutual pleasure and satisfaction (in the bedroom and in general).

The point of all this: it takes (at least) two to tango, and so both (or all) partners are responsible for bringing and donning the proper gear.

Do not rely on your partner to “take care of” contraception. Unfortunately, many women still rely on the man to bring a condom, and many men still rely on the woman to be “on the pill.”

Obviously, this can lead to a very unfortunate situation in which he does not have a condom and she in not taking an oral contraceptive, leaving them with the choice of either not having sex at all, or having unprotected sex.

Both of these options are bad, and more often than not couples will choose to have sex anyway.

This decision not only increases their chances of an unplanned pregnancy, but also of acquiring an unwanted sexually transmitted infection such as HIV or herpes.

The easiest way to avoid having to make such a hormonally charged decision is for both partners to take equal responsibility for having a condom on their person — be it in a pocket, a purse, a sock, where ever.

Even though it is the man who wears it, the woman gets just as many benefits from its use, and she should feel comfortable taking the initiative to safeguard her own health and wellbeing.

In fact some condom companies are marketing male condoms directly to women by using sexy packaging and imagery in order to promote this healthy habit.

Oral contraceptives do not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and should not be the only form of protection used between new lovers.

Gentlemen, never assume a woman is using an oral contraceptive. If you are unsure, ask her.

If you are both ready to have sex, then you should be able to have an honest conversation about contraception.

Another very common — and I think disturbing — trend is many men will leave it completely up to the woman to “stop” the progression of sexual activity in order to demand the use of a condom, instead of simply putting the condom on himself without needing to be told to do so by his partner.

This behaviour unfairly shifts the responsibility of condom use fully onto the woman, and implies that without her demand, he would happily have sex without using a condom at all.

Why are women stereotypically placed in the sexually “responsible“ role? Are men not just as concerned about their own health as women?

Then should not men be equally as likely to “stop” the sexual activity in order to use protection?

The usual justification for this scenario is that men get “carried away” in the heat of the moment and “forget” about the consequences of their sexual behaviours, whereas women do not get swept away by their sexual passions and are therefore the ones who must be “responsible” for them both.

This argument is based upon too many incorrect culturally-bound assumptions regarding female sexuality to explore in this article.

Suffice to say that women are equally as “impassioned” as men, and should not be the only ones who decide whether or not contraception will be used.

The “heat of the moment” is not an excuse for irresponsible sexual behaviour for either women or men.

Having a conversation about contraception does not have to be as uncomfortable as most people believe.

The key is to broach the subject during a non-sexual, calm moment together.

One of the worst times to have this “talk” right before sex because it will certainly kill the mood.

It will be much better, and lead to a much smoother first time, if this issue is already taken care of and both partners are comfortable knowing that they have made a healthy, loving, and respectful decision together.

About two years ago the debate of teen contraception began, and my two cents to this is very simple… If the children are having sex, please make the pills accessible to them.

At the end of the day, a prudish parent will have to take care of an unplanned grandchild, so which one is better?

Where am I going with this?

Any sensible woman will put in place measures to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

Contraception is free in this country for crying out loud!

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