In the Philippines, Family Planning is a national mandated priority public health program to attain the country’s national health agenda.The vision of the Department of Health’s National Family Program is for Filipino women and men achieve their desired family size and fulfill the reproductive health and rights for all through universal access to quality family planning information and services.
Family Planning is promoted through the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, also known as the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, along with the use of contraceptive methods.
Currently, there are two family planning methods available in the Philippines: natural and artificial. Natural family planning (or “fertility awareness”) is a method of contraception where a woman monitors and records different fertility signals during her menstrual cycle to work out when she’s likely to get pregnant.
Natural methods include Cervical Mucus Method, Basal Body Temperature, Symptothermal Method Standard Days Method, Lactational Amenorrhea Method, and other methods deemed to be safe, effective, and natural by the Department of Health.
On the other hand, modern artificial contraception is the use of artificial methods to prevent unplanned pregnancy, major forms of which are the use of condoms, contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and subdermal implants. Availability, accessibility, and proper education are key in order for Filipino women to be able to make sound and informed decisions about their reproductive health.
Elevating the role of midwives in family planning
A common misconception about midwives is that their main duty is to attend births, but there is so much more to the role that they play in women’s health. In many communities, midwives are often the only health providers delivering family planning counseling and services. Qualified midwives are trained to deliver voluntary family planning services while offering informed choices for clients, especially young individuals.
Midwives are also one of the unsung heroes of the pandemic, because they were strongly positioned as frontliners, with their geographic and social proximity to the communities that they serve.
In a recent interview on the importance of family planning in the time of pandemic, with Ms. Patricia Gomez, Executive Director of the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP) said “During the start of the pandemic when everybody was on tight lockdown and people can’t go out due to the fear of contracting the virus, majority of the women in our communities also didn’t want to go to birthing facilities or rural health units (RHU) so what we did is we found a way to bring our services to them.”
In line with this, the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP) has launched an initiative called Family Planning on Wheels, where the midwives go from house to house and give enough contraception supply to the women in their communities. In this way, the rollout for women’s reproductive right isn’t interrupted, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to further prevent unplanned pregnancies and early pregnancies in teenagers.
Midwives should be much more involved as they are equipped with unique skillsets, starting from the antenatal to postnatal care, which includes family planning, spotting sexually transmitted diseases, providing reproductive health services, while also making sure that they are supporting and upholding women’s rights at the same time.
Upskilling for Better Practice
In order to elevate role of midwives in family planning, IMAP spearheaded a training and upskilling of midwives to build up their technical skills and teach them how to embrace their role as women’s health counsellors and educators. IMAP teamed up with PRSP, women’s health company Organon (Philippines) Incorporated, and other medical professionals to make the said activity possible.
Through this multi-stakeholder initiative, midwives from Region 6 attended a 3-day training and lecture on the insertion of Implanon NXT, a Progestin Sub-dermal Implant (PSI), a form of modern family planning method. Speakers of this capacity-building activity include Philippine Society for Responsible Parenthood (PSRP) President Dr. Bernabe Marinduque, IMAP’s Patricia Gomez and Dr. Eileen Tancinco, an Ob-gynecologist.
During the training, Dr. Bernabe Marinduque, President of the Philippine Society for Responsible Parenthood (PSRP),touched on the importance of family planning and several misconceptions about long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).
In his lecture, Dr. Bernabe explained “Family Planning is essential to prevent pre-natal deaths, maternal mortality, maternal morbidity and newborn death. For any form of contraception, nothing is really 100% effective, and a common misconception about implants is that women might have troubles conceiving after taking it out, but I can assure you that with implants like Implanon NXT, return to fertility is quick.”
To further prove this point, the World Health Organization also published a statement that says that long-acting reversible contraceptives including intrauterine devices and implants are some of the most effective methods of contraception. Aside from that, they do not require daily or monthly dosing, plus the duration of contraceptive action lasts from 3 to 5 years. This will also promote the reproductive intent of women, whether to delay their first pregnancy, space out their succeeding pregnancies, or to limit childbearing.
Apart from the training on PSI insertion, the lecture also emphasized how good counseling is an essential part of family planning services, and that healthcare providers, including midwives, are responsible for ensuring that a woman makes a voluntary and informed choice.
Through counseling, midwives can guide women in making informed decisions about the safest and most suitable method of contraception that meets their needs and conditions. An effective counseling dispels clients’ fears and allows misconceptions to be corrected and clarified. Necessary information in counseling includes method effectiveness, advantages and disadvantages, side effects and complications, use of chosen method, and when client needs to return.
A Better and Healthier Every Day for Every Woman
One of the few healthcare companies truly dedicated to women’s health, Organon is developing solutions across three core areas. One of those core areas is Women’s Health, a portfolio of solutions to support women’s well-being, with a leading contraceptives business.
The company’s R&D philosophy is to build a business around patient needs, with the goal of identifying and advancing healthcare options for women that enable them to live their best lives every day.
Organon’s corporate mantra is to ensure that women have a say in their health and their future. The organization believes in a better and healthier every day for every woman and their mission is to be the world’s leading women’s health company committed to delivering innovative health solutions for women.
Over the years, we’ve seen how collaboration in healthcare has been shown to improve patient outcomes. That is why Organon engages in multi-stakeholder efforts to achieve a common goal of empowering women to make informed decisions about her health, body and future,” said Organon’s Market Access, Policy & Communications Lead Caroline Lopez.
Dr. Marinduque echoes that to fully address the obstacles in women’s reproductive health and to improve family life, a multi-stakeholder collaboration is needed. “One of the most important interventions should be coming from our national government, which would then be trickled down to our local government units. But being in partnership with organizations like Organon is already a big step for us as we strongly believe that it will help stress the importance of Family Planning and educating our Healthcare Professionals (HCPs).”