DUBAI // Doctors say myths and cultural prohibitions, in addition to a lack of awareness, are keeping women in the UAE from taking birth control pills or using them properly. The World Contraception Day report, which was approved by the Ministry of Health and released yesterday, surveyed 500 married women in the UAE and found that two-thirds of them would consider using oral birth control.
Yet, most women do not adequately understand how the pills work, associating them with weight gain and permanent infertility, while others do not take them according to instructions, resulting in unplanned pregnancies, said Dr Aruna Kumari, a gynaecologist from Lifeline Hospital in Abu Dhabi, speaking as part of a medical panel at the launch of the report yesterday. "Oral contraceptive pills are very unpopular in this country," Dr Kumari said. "There are many myths and cultural prohibitions about using the medication."
The key is to provide women with more information, to alleviate their fears, something that is difficult to do because many women ignore their reproductive health when they are not pregnant, she said. Aside from doctor visits, in the UAE it is still difficult to get that message out, said Dr Salima Wani, from Corniche Hospital. "A sizeable chunk of women still rely on doctors for information, and do not frequently access the internet," she said.
The Contraception Day report also indicated that only 36 per cent of women visit their gynaecologists regularly, even though two-thirds experience health problems. The system in the UAE can make doing so difficult; many women need two appointments and wait days for permission from their insurance companies just to get the recommended once-a-year pap smear. "Pap smears should be considered part of normal health care," said Dr Avril Staunton, from RAK Hospital.
Diabetes levels of 25 per cent among some sectors of the population further complicate women's reproductive health. Women with diabetes tend to stop taking their medication once they learn they are pregnant, without consulting a medical professional, doctors say. This leads to complications that can increase the rate of maternal mortality; doctors on yesterday's panel said it was not uncommon to see women having as many as five Caesarean sections.
If men understood the health risks that repeated, close pregnancies caused their wives, they would be more likely to make decisions that improve both her health, and that of their future children, doctors say. "Husbands should be encouraged to participate actively," Dr Kumari said. "Unless there is male involvement in the educational exercise, it is not going to work. Both partners have an equal role to play."
The World Contraception Day report was conducted by a group headed by Bayer Schering Pharma of Germany and a group of international organisations that focus on sexual health. @Email: email@example.com