Contraception – women’s right to choose
If anyone were to ask me which story I would like to share when it comes to stories on prescribing contraception, I would not hesitate to tell you my experience while training under the legendary Professor A.
Professor A is a famous senior professor attached to the unit where I was training to be an Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. She was one of the first female obstetricians in this country, who is highly respected and well loved for her integrity and discipline. In many ways she was my teacher and mentor. However, she was not the easiest boss to please: she expected nothing less than perfection from her trainees. I can still recall the days whereby I woke up at 5.00am every morning and arrive at the hospital at the wee hours of the day, woke patients up from their beds to obtain the latest updates and progress on their medical conditions. By 8.00am sharp, Professor A would have arrived at the ward, fresh and energetic, to start the consultant ward rounds. Professor A would expect us to know A to Z about the 20-30 patients under our care. She would get extremely upset if we flipped the notes to gather information in front of her. And honestly, it was a great challenge to remember every single detail of these patients without getting our facts mixed up. But Professor A is no fool as she could remember every single detail of these patients, and she would not hesitate to point it out directly, which sometimes could be quite embarrassing for us in front of everyone else.
It was a scary and challenging period of our lives. To survive the wrath of Prof A, we worked so hard to make sure that we meet her standard. One of the most important aspects of our presentation is our counseling on contraception. Professor A would expect us to have counseled the patients and their husbands regarding the choice of contraception and she would expect that the discussion ended with the couple making the most reasonable choice. If any single part of these steps were missed, Professor A would get extremely upset.
It was a great challenge, to wake patient up at 5.00am in the morning and bombard them with all the choices of contraception and expect them to make the decision at such wee hours of the day, and many of these patients may have just returned from the labour suite after going through long and difficult labour…..Many of them would have looked at us like a zombie as we rattled through all various choices of contraception. Some would even be irritated and ignored us. Sometimes, we even get sarcastic remarks and angry statement from the husbands. But the job needs to be done. And I must admit that sometimes when we did not get the answer from the patients, we lie through our teeth in front of Professor A……It was our survival instinct….
When I looked back at this period of my professional life, I used to wonder what kind of impression I have made upon these patients with regards to contraception. Many times I wished that this information could have been imparted to them while they were still pregnant so that they could have time to digest and discuss this information with their partners. I have also secretly wished that I have opportunity to sit down with their partners to help them to make an informed choice.
As I become more mature professionally, I began to actively discuss contraception with these patients while they attend the antenatal clinics. Professor A had taught me that contraception is such an important issue which many of us have neglected because we thought it is not important. Many patients who were not ready to be pregnant again physically or mentally came back to us pregnant at the most inconvenient period of their lives, putting themselves and their pregnancies at risk, and causing sleepless nights for the managing obstetricians. Education, like Professor A stressed, is the only solution to this vicious cycle.
Therefore, I strongly believe that education on contraception should be incorporated in our women’s health education and sex education. Education is to help individuals to make informed choices and should not be deemed as promoting casual sex or immoral conducts. Education on contraception should be viewed as part of health education rather than something that one needs to discretely find information on.
Let us make contraception a valid and conscious choice for all.