September 18, 2014

Four generations of family planning

Written by Eddie Zzimbe, Uganda Operations Director, Marie Stopes International

This post originally appeared on Marie Stopes International’s website here. Reposted with permission.


Yunia, 90 years old
“In our day we didn’t have family planning, a woman would give birth until she stopped.”

Yunia is a great grandmother who lives in Uganda, “I wanted to have 15 children but I stopped after my eighth child.” Of her eight children, five survived into adulthood, and she now lives with them and their families in a compound in Kasese.

Attitudes and access to family planning have changed dramatically in Yunia’s lifetime. This becomes clear when you speak with the next three generations of her family. Indeed, Yunia’s own attitude to family size has been shaped by the hardships suffered by her offspring.

Pelusi, 47 years old
“I knew about family planning, I just didn’t take it up because of all the negative things people kept saying about it.”

Yunia’s daughter Pelusi has given birth 14 times. She was aware of contraception, but didn’t use it because she had heard negative rumours, “they said I’d bleed permanently and my husband would lose interest in me.”

Like her mother, three of Pelusi’s children died in infancy, the last only two years ago, while Pelusi was in labour. This traumatic birth prompted Pelusi to think about using contraception for the first time. And last month she chose to have an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted by the Marie Stopes Uganda outreach team that visits a nearby public health centre.

“We have ambitious plans for our children’s education.”

Chris, 27 years old
Pelusi’s son, and Yunia’s grandson, Chris, showed that behaviour can change even earlier in the next generation.

“My girlfriend and I conceived when we were in primary seven, and we had to drop straight out of school.” The pregnancy was a shock. But Chris and his girlfriend learnt that they could make a choice about the spacing of their future births through family planning and they have been using it ever since.

Nine years on, they have three children. And it’s not just contraceptive use that’s changing. Access to safe motherhood services is increasing thanks to the HealthyBaby voucher scheme we introduced in the area.

Chris knows from his own family’s experiences how important safe delivery services are. So for just under US$1.50 he bought a voucher entitling his wife to antenatal and safe delivery services. They used this for the birth of their third child, Yunia’s great-grandson.

Immaculate, 17 years old
“I don’t want to have children until I’m 20 years old.”

Immaculate is Yunia’s great-granddaughter. When asked if she’s heard of family planning, she nods her head. She’s reluctant to talk about sex in front of her family, but she’s clearly learnt from their experiences.

With Marie Stopes Uganda visiting her community regularly, she knows where she can access the contraception she’ll need to make sure she has a choice about when to start a family.

Family planning has been accepted by Yunia’s family. And its use is growing across her community. Myths about different contraceptive methods are still a barrier, but visits from our outreach team are helping to dispel these misconceptions, showing the life-changing impact that family planning can have.

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