Birth control: After 20 years of ‘doing it’ wrong, policymakers need to change approach to family planning

Published: July 2, 2011
Dr Sadiah Pal holds up a dummy for a woman’s anatomical features with an assistant while training doctors and midwives at the intensive course in emergency obstetrics and neonatal care at Jinnah hospital on Friday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Dr Sadiah Pal holds up a dummy for a woman’s anatomical features with an assistant while training doctors and midwives at the intensive course in emergency obstetrics and neonatal care at Jinnah hospital on Friday. PHOTO: EXPRESS


Telling couples that they need to limit the number of children they have doesn’t go down well in Pakistan, as the failure of family planning programmes testifies. What policymakers should have done instead, to achieve the same results, was to educate couples on the risks to the health of the mother and baby if wise decisions are not made.

Thus, a good 20 years have been wasted presenting family planning initiatives to people in the wrong light, argues Dr Nasser Mohiuddin, who runs the National Trust for Population Affairs planning and development department.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on the sidelines of the inaugural session of a three-day seminar on Emergency Obstetrics and Neonatal care at Jinnah hospital, he explained why there has been mass rejection of family planning in the country.

Today 3.9 is the births per woman for Pakistan, down from 6.1 ten years ago and just one-third of women use contraception. Nearly 1 out of 93 women face the risk of dying while in the labour room, according to World Development Indicators for 2011 released by the World Bank.

The good news is that the mistake has been realised and the agenda has been realigned, he said. “But it will take some time to undo the damage done,” he explained.

Take the examples of Iran and Indonesia that are Muslim countries which have successfully managed to educate their populations. “In Iran, a fatwa was passed by a religious leader that family planning was not anti-Islam and this went a long way in getting people to accept it.” In Pakistan, however, when the work started, religious leaders were not taken on board to promote acceptance over the use of family planning. This mistake is being corrected in many areas across the country today. Still, a measure of the acceptance is that 60%of babies are still being delivered at home without any skilled help in Pakistan. According to Mohiuddin, many families would completely avoid polio vaccine drops for their children or iodised salt for themselves as they believe they were secret state measures for family planning.

EmONC seminar

The experts discussed a number of emergencies which arise during pregnancy and child birth. Tips, techniques and training were shared and demonstrated in the day-long session which involved role-play at the end of each topic to reinforce the teachings.

While the participants were mainly doctors, nurses, midwives, several questions seemed to demonstrate that they did not have a basic understanding of how to deal with labour complications. This gap in reliable information and a lack of proper training for medical staff is one of the major reasons behind many avoidable maternal deaths.

One of the facilitators, Dr Sadiah Ahsan-Pal, highlighted the importance of counselling the mother in labour and keeping family members aware of the procedure. This helps the doctor gain their trust, allows the mother and the family to relax and avoid any unnecessary delays or complications. The importance of antenatal and post-natal care was emphasised along with addressing and planning for the economic and social aspects accompanying child birth at healthcare facilities.

Emergency situations

More than half of maternal deaths occur within 24 hours of child birth, mostly due to severe bleeding. Presentations were made on emergency preparedness, active management of the third stage of labour, post partum haemorrhage (PPH), the use of misoprosotol and eclampsia and pre-eclampsia or hypertension during the pregnancy.

A detailed discussion and role playing was conducted on bleeding, which accounts for about 25% of maternal deaths and eclampsia which is also one of the leading causes for high maternal mortality.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • shanil khan
    Jul 2, 2011 - 11:50AM

    the islamic fanatics are the biggest obstacle in birth control in our society.The government should check their excessive power in our society .As it is the spread of radical islam has caused too much damage in our society.Recommend

  • Khalil
    Jul 2, 2011 - 2:55PM

    @shanil khan:
    Can you tell me in which part of the valley have you buried your demand for ‘Freedom’ ?

    When its a matter of fornication/adultery then Islam should not interfere in ones life, but when its a matter of birth then Islam should put restriction… huh, nothing but Hippocratic gesture.

    If some deprived Islamophobist.don’t like kids then they should ask god (if they believe one) to make them permanently impotent. But according to universally accepted norms, they have got no right to rebuke any religion based on what it allows to person and what it doesn’t.

    Bhai agar Islam pasand nahi hay to join your brothers in Europe who are now at the verge of extinction only because of there sick practice of limiting a family. Recommend

  • abc
    Jul 2, 2011 - 6:42PM

    whats with the headline??Recommend

  • ikmundapunjabi
    Jul 3, 2011 - 7:51AM

    @Khalil: well if you want to compare urself with europe then compare it on the basis of quality of life,education,healthcare and freedoms not on who can have more babies. europe is europe today because they planned for everything unlike us”jab hoga dekha jayega”. what does pakistan or any south asian country have that europe doesnt? and europeeans are becoming a minority not because of their family planning but because immigrants from north africa and middle east are flooding them,unlike muslim countries europeans treat immigrants like actual human beings. so please dont make a fool of urself and stop comparing urself to europe. Recommend

  • Shahid
    Jul 3, 2011 - 2:18PM

    This matter has long been discussed in the history without any actual practical, workable and compatible outcome except some pathetic rhetoric repeated by our ‘Europe Nawaz’ brothers.

    I don’t think there was any ‘comparison’ between Pakistan and Europe as you claim in Khalil’s comment and what he is emphasizing upon is the ‘Hypocrisy’ of some deceivers, cheaters, fraudulent and half-believers (who accepts what they like and rejects what they don’t).

    The term coined was ‘Freedom’ … And Khalil rightly said that no-one has any right to rebuke any religion on the basis of level of freedom and restrictions in it.

    Blaming ‘Immigration’ as generalization factor for defending ‘European Minority’ is somehow far from the fact. Their extinction is due to their immoral lifestyle, hate from kids, excessive use of contraception, marriage-less coupling, multiple physical partnerships, deceive to women based on their equality with men and then comes Immigration.

    And please avoid intermingling Islamic decrees/verdicts/stands on human acts with nation’s collective moral bankruptcy as majority of people here thinks they can live without Islam.

    The only thing left to be seen is if they die without Islam too …Recommend

  • Aaeisha
    Jul 6, 2011 - 4:00PM

    The comments above are not right. Nobody has the right to tell anybody how many,at what time you should have a kid. We should respect each other believes.However it is the duty of every body to communicate the right msg at right time.Mother and child health are very important for the propagation of human generation.We have to adopt right policies to address this issue. Complications are never liked and we always want to avoid them.So unwanted pregnancies should be avoided. Prevention is better than cure. Using contraception is a preventive measure.Many of our couples using abortion as a contraceptive measure which is wrong. Because this endangers the life of mother and ultimately the family.Health Education related to pregnancy, delivery,nutrition can bring real change.If families are provided information related to these matters they will be in a better position to plan and decide of their size.
    Using harsh words like shanil khan is not good.Christians also oppose this concept. So using harsh words make other people react. We are already restless and need real peace. We should respect each others beliefs.Recommend

  • Aaeisha
    Jul 6, 2011 - 4:13PM

    Shanil Khan pl do not say wrong otherwise you have to listen wrong. Spread of Islam is not your concern. It is the ultimate of this world.There are one billion muslims and REST OF 6 BILLIONS ARE MOSTLY CHRISTIANS. How such a minority can harm others. so pl you should be sorry for using such words. Hurting others is never the preaching of any relegion.Recommend

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