Fertility myths keep millions from contraception, UN report warns | Global health

Myths and misinformation about contraceptive use deter women from using modern family planning methods, the UN Population Fund warns, as figures show nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended.

With an estimated 250 million women not using effective contraception despite wanting to avoid getting pregnant, the UNFPA said lack of access to family planning was no longer the main reason for not using it.

Instead, it said that as contraception use increased around the world, the women who deliberately avoided it were more likely to do so out of concern about “side effects, myths, stigma and opposition from others.”

For many women, it stressed, taking birth control was complicated, and nearly a quarter (23%) couldn’t say no to sex, according to figures first reported in 2020. misconceptions persist and contribute to non-use,” the UN agency noted.

In a survey of 60 respondents, published Wednesday in UNFPA’s annual report, a woman from Ghana said she had heard that “contraceptives make people fat”. Several women from different countries, including the US, said they had been told that birth control pills could cause infertility.

A 43-year-old woman from Burkina Faso said: “We’ve been told that birth control can make you infertile.”

According to another woman, 31, from Sudan: “People believe it causes infertility and cancer; that it is a foreign idea.” And an Algerian respondent, 44, was told: “Condoms should only be used for sex outside of marriage, the pill makes you sterile, the IUD causes bleeding.”

According to data first published in 2020, nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide – about 121 million – are unintended, with more than 60% of pregnancies ending in abortion. According to the UNFPA, an estimated 45% of all abortions are unsafe.

As the agency released its report, executive director, Natalia Kanem, said the number of unintended pregnancies was “staggering.”

“For the affected women, the most life-changing reproductive choice – whether or not to get pregnant – is no choice at all. By empowering women and girls to make this most fundamental decision, societies can ensure that motherhood is an aspiration, not an inevitability.”

The report called on governments to introduce “comprehensive sex education” so that women and girls could receive accurate information about their birth control options.

“If done right, this education can combat myths and misconceptions and promote communication, consent and respectful relationships. It can address gender and power and teach adolescents about confidential contraceptive care,” the report added.

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