Family planning has always been in Mariluna Tumbaga’s mind, but until now, no contraceptive has suited her.
“Dati, gusto kong magpaligate, pero noong nasa center na ako, high blood daw ako, kaya di na tinuloy ng doctor. Hindi rin ako pwede sa pills kasi may migraine ako,” (Before, I wanted to have a ligation, but on the day I was set to undergo the operation at the health center, the doctor said I was hypertensive so we had to forgo the procedure. Pills are also not an option because I have migraine) said the 39-year-old mother from Barangay Bagbaguin in Valenzuela City.
Tumbaga said having many children makes for a lively home, but she also admitted that making ends meet for a brood of eight children has become a struggle. Her husband, the sole breadwinner in the family, earns only about PhP 150 a day driving a taxicab. Her eldest, an eighteen-year-old, is unemployed.
She recently learned about the implant, a new contraceptive being offered at city health stations. So before another one could follow her youngest, who is now a year-and-a-half old, Tumbaga, along with 39 other women, availed of the implant last January at the Bagbaguin Health Station.
The implant is a contraceptive made of a synthetic hormone called etonogestrel − which inhibits the release of eggs from the ovaries − contained in a plastic rod about the size of a matchstick. The device is placed under the skin of the upper part of a woman’s non-dominant arm − the one she doesn’t use for writing − through surgery by a doctor or a trained nurse.
Once inserted, the plastic rod will remain under the woman’s skin until after three years, which is the length of the implant’s effect.
The length of its effectivity and the convenience of its use have impressed city government officials, who are now promoting it among reproductive-age female city residents as the contraceptive of choice. Valenzuela City is the first local government in the country to offer the implant.
“It is always possible that the woman may forget taking the day’s pill. But with an implant, once a woman already has one under her skin, she doesn't have to worry about anything,” City Mayor REX Gatchalian said.
“I know how mothers can be really busy, so their contraceptive should be the least of their worries,” the local chief executive said.
More than 7,000 women have availed themselves of implants since the city government started offering the contraceptive for free at city health stations in November 2013. The city government has set a target of 10,000 implant users by 2016, Mayor Rex said.
City Population Management Office Head Dr. Anabelle Fajardo said studies done on the implant show that the contraceptive has no harmful side effects. Its most common side effect is irregular menstruation, she said.
“Usually, during the first six to nine months after the implant is inserted, some women would experience staggered periods, which would eventually stop.” Dr. Fajardo said.
As all contraceptives go, the implant does not guarantee protection from pregnancy 100 per cent of the time, Dr. Fajardo said. Citing a study done by N.V. Organon, the manufacturer of the implant provided by the city government, Dr. Fajardo said the chance of an implant user getting pregnant is one out of 10,000. Causes of implant failure vary, including improperly placed implants.
Despite the emphasis the city government is placing on the implant now, a wide range of family planning methods remains available to constituents, Dr. Fajardo maintained.
Latest census data show that Valenzuela City has a population of 575, 356 and has an annual population growth rate of 1.7 percent.