Doctor calls for increase in family planning education Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Family Medicine Physician at the Westmoreland Health Services, Dr Henrika Gayle, is calling for an increase in family planning education, particularly for women who have never been pregnant.

Dr Gayle, who undertook a study entitled, ‘Prevalence and Determinants of Non-barrier Contraceptive Use Among Women in Westmoreland’, was a winner in two categories at the 2022 National Health Research Conference.

These were Best Overall Poster Presentation and Most Impactful Poster Presentation.

The study revealed a high prevalence of non-barrier contraception among parous women (women who have children) and low rates among nulligravid women (women who have never been pregnant).

Dr. Gayle explained that this demonstrated high rates of unplanned pregnancies and that many women used contraception for the first time after being pregnant at least once.

A cross-sectional study design was used across five randomly selected health centres in Westmoreland. A total of 243 non-pregnant women aged 16 to 49 years were sampled using a questionnaire divided into three parts – demographics, reproductive history and access to contraception.

The study found that while the prevalence of non-barrier contraception use was 53 per cent, it was just 21 per cent in nulligravid women. It was also determined that parous women were 8.5 times more likely to use non-barrier contraception than nulligravid women.

“Daily I see young women who are sexually active come into the office and decisively tell me that they do not want to get pregnant, yet still they are not using contraception and when you delve a little bit deeper and you ask why is it that they are not using contraception, they are hardly ever able to give a real answer,” Dr. Gayle said.

She lamented the fact that although there are contraceptive options available to women, they are having unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, and these are associated with an increased risk of poverty, reduced educational attainment, reduced personal attainment and a reduced quality of life for both mother and child.

Dr. Gayle referenced previous studies done in Jamaica, which showed that up to 40 per cent of women in the country get pregnant before 20 years old and that up to 80 per cent of those pregnancies are unwanted.

This, she added, represents a high pregnancy rate, especially among teenage mothers.

The family medicine physician noted that similar to what has been found in these national studies, the parish of Westmoreland has a high rate of pregnancy.

“Westmoreland was ranked the parish with the fifth highest pregnancy rate in the age groups 15 to nine years old, so it highlights the need for appropriate family planning methods,” Dr. Gayle emphasised.

The objectives of the study were to determine the prevalence of non-barrier contraceptive usage in women in Westmoreland; and to examine determinants that influence its usage.