DUBAI // Medical professionals should spend more time discussing family planning with their female patients to reduce the global rate of unwanted pregnancies, speakers at a forum here for health professionals said. "There are still too many unintended pregnancies and abortions, and this is because women are either not part of the decision-making process, or they are not well-informed on the matter," said Prof Johannes Bitzer, head of the department of social medicine at the University Clinic/Women's Hospital in Switzerland.
Speaking over the weekend at the Reproductive, Healthy Woman Forum, he called on doctors to take time to discuss each patient's concerns about contraceptives and assess each woman's medical condition and suitability for different types available. "Time needs to be taken to educate the population on the benefits of the pill, rather than always concentrating on the risks," he said. "This is why counselling on the matter is so important; there is a lack of information available here and the image it currently holds is negative and dominated by fear."
Dr Gaby Khayata, an obstetric and gynaecology consultant at a private clinic in Dubai, also emphasised the benefits of the contraceptive pill. "We need to dispel the myth that hormones are bad for the body," he said. "There are a number of health benefits that come out of the pill." Although the relationship between oral contraceptives and breast cancer is not yet clear, Prof Bitzer said, studies have shown that it can lower a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.
"It is about protection and prevention, and people need to be aware that the pill has additional benefits than just contraception," he said. A study published last year in The Lancet medical journal found that the contraceptive pill prevented about 200,000 cases of ovarian cancer and 100,000 deaths from the disease since it was introduced more than 40 years ago. In 2002, the UN reported that 120 million women around the world were taking contraceptive pills, two-thirds of them in developed countries.