Happy World Contraception Day! WINGS’ Family Planning Educators link thousands of Guatemalans with contraceptive methods each year.
On the ground, one of the major obstacles our Family Planning Educators in the field must overcome is the wide-spread and deeply entrenched myths about sexual and reproductive health.
Here, we bring you the Top 10 Contraception Myths in Guatemala:
Roots of The Myths
Unsurprisingly, contraception myths typically result from a lack of reproductive health education. Lucy, our Family Planning Educator in Quiché, explains, “Many women only hear the myths. They go their entire lives without learning the correct information.” These misunderstandings are not limited only to rural populations. Brenda, WINGS’ trainer who works with government and other non-profit organizations notes, “In Guatemala, sexual and reproductive health is taboo. During our trainings, even people with secondary or university level educations don’t have a grasp of the truth surrounding these issues.”
Sandra, a WINGS’ Family Planning Educator, believes that many misunderstandings about contraception can be traced back to the lack of variety of methods. Generally speaking, in urban areas and in most developed countries, a woman has a large variety of contraceptive methods to choose from, including various birth control pill brands, different types of condoms, hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, the vaginal ring, and tubal ligations, among many others. In most rural Guatemalan villages, women have a much more limited selection; often, only one method is available. As a result, many women who want to plan their families use methods that fail to address their particular needs or suffer from side effects that could be easily avoided with a wider variety of choices. Even where contraception options exist, a lack of counseling and follow-up care can mean that women continue to use methods that are not ideal for them.
Myths that link the use of contraceptives to women’s increased sexual desire, infidelity, or an inability to comply with her household responsibilities, can be attributed to Guatemala’s machismo culture, which perpetuates a submissive, conservative, and “pure” ideal of women. Because contraceptive use enables women to have greater control over their lives, family planning is seen as a threat by many men, who respond by spreading myths that dissuade women from using contraceptive methods.
Dispelling the Myths
WINGS opens channels of communication to combat the cultural taboo of speaking about sexual and reproductive health. We offer communities scientifically-based, non-biased information that is appropriate for low literacy audiences and for those who speak indigenous languages. By combining our Family Planning Program with our Youth WINGS and WINGS for Men Programs, we make this a conversation important for all members of the community, not just for women of reproductive age.
Thanks to our generous supporters, WINGS is also overcoming myths by expanding contraceptive choice, ensuring that more women experience the benefits of planning their families by using methods that best meet their needs. WINGS community-based Family Planning Promoters sell a variety of methods at subsidized prices, such as condoms, birth control pills, and hormonal injections. Our new-in-2012 mobile medical unit offers IUDs and hormonal implants to further diversify rural women’s options. And WINGS subsidizes additional long-term and permanent methods, including tubal ligations and vasectomies, through our partner organization, APROFAM.
Today, in honor of World Contraception Day, you can help Guatemalan women know the truth about contraception. If you want to help WINGS educate more women about the real benefits and risks of contraceptive methods, please donate today.