Family planning and adolescents is an interesting topic in the whole discussion about family planning. While some would jump to the necessity of getting adolescents use any of the family planning methods, others would give millions of reasons why adolescents should not even imagine using a family planning method.
Reasons which will span from religiosity to culture, will water down efforts to get adolescents to use family planning methods.
But then health experts from a medical point of view backed by statistics are providing enough justifications why sexually active adolescents should use family planning methods.
One of such experts is the Senior Nursing Officer at the Reproductive Health Centre of the Korle BU Teaching Hospital, Evelyn Atieku.
Speaking in an interview, she gave the age brackets of adolescents who family planning should be recommended to as from age 13-17. Research has shown that persons who are within this age bracket are sexually active and must be protected from unwanted pregnancies.
Justifying the need for adolescents who are sexually active to be exposed to family planning methods, she said, the Reproductive Health Centre at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital provides Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) and an appreciable number of their patients are adolescents who come in several months pregnant.
While some are accompanied by their parents, guardian, others come alone seeking help. According to the senior nurse, before an abortion is done, the patient goes for counselling and as part of the process, family planning methods are explained to them. She was, however, quick to add that it was not compulsory for one to accept. According to her, teenagers as at age 13 come to the facility for abortion.
These adolescents in her estimation, could have prevented these unwanted pregnancies if they were knowledgeable about family planning methods.
Explaining further, she stated that not all artificial forms of family planning are suitable for adolescents. She recommended the use of implants and injections as the best artificial family planning methods. “For implants, the adolescent can go in for the 3 years or 5 years plan. However, for the injections, I recommend the 3 months injections, these can keep them safe from unwanted pregnancies,” she said.
Evelyn Atieku reiterated that recommending family planning to adolescents have become critical due to the rate at which adolescents are getting pregnant and coming for abortion. According to her, it is prudent to help them protect themselves rather than leave them at the mercy of unwanted pregnancies of which some of these adolescents would not come to the hospital for abortion but rather use unapproved medicines to abort the pregnancy. A situation she explains might lead to the death of the adolescents or leave them with permanent damage to their health. This she believes would not help in the country’s quest to achieve the Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals on Good Health and Well-being.
Speaking in a telephone interview with some adolescents, it was evident there exist an information gap in family planning methods. Most of them preferred to go for emergency contraceptives unaware of the negative implications their regular usage has on their health. Interactions with these young adults also revealed that they consider family planning methods as suitable for persons above 20 years and not for teenagers.
Reacting to these concerns, Senior Nursing Officer, Evelyn Atieku admitted that more education is needed on family planning and adolescents and by extension on adolescents and their reproductive health rights.
She urged adolescents to feel free to walk into any Reproductive Health Centre at the various hospitals to seek information about family planning .