Contraception remains a taboo subject in Malaysia and it is one of the reasons why there are still many unintended pregnancies occurring. In fact, the main reasons for unintended pregnancies include:
- Lack of family planning services
- Poverty and lack of education
- Not using, incorrect use or failure of contraceptive methods
Additionally, it was found that the reasons for not using contraception was due to opposition of the method, perceived side effects and also infrequent or abstinence from sexual intercourse.
To highlight the importance of contraception, we speak to the Deputy Chairperson of the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society – Young Pharmacist Chapter, Cedric Chua.
1Twenty80: What do you think is the main health issue plaguing Malaysians today?
Cedric Chua: In my opinion, it would be the seemingly inexorable rise of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. While some of us could quickly point to poor eating and lifestyle habits as the chief culprit, the reality is that many remain unaware of what that entails. Education by healthcare professionals is therefore key, and it starts with making one aware of the healthy substitutes available at his or her disposal.
1Twenty80: What is the state of reproductive health in Malaysia presently?
Chua: Good data is difficult to find for this topic but it is thought that up to 25 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and unintended. This has consequences on maternal injury and death, which further impacts women emotionally and socially.
It is important because every pregnancy should be wanted, and every childbirth safe.
1Twenty80: Do you think the Malaysian public is well-informed about contraception?
Chua: While I feel that basic knowledge is there, the level of knowledge may be dependent on where people live such as in urban areas versus rural areas, and may also vary according to religion, taboos or cultural sensitivities.
1Twenty80: Why is contraception important in our community?
Chua: It is important because every pregnancy should be wanted, and every childbirth safe. This is in line with the government’s goal of reducing maternal deaths in Malaysia.
1Twenty80: What are other indications of birth control pills?
Chua: Oral contraceptives help to regulate the menstrual cycle, thereby resulting in lighter and less painful periods.
Certain oral contraceptives are also useful for reducing acne. They can help with certain symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and a more severe condition known as pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which can be debilitating, affecting a woman’s daily activities.
1Twenty80: What are common myths and misconceptions about contraception that you have heard of from your customers?
Chua: I’ve heard that some people think that birth control pills would eventually reduce a woman’s fertility if taken for a long time. If a woman finds it difficult to conceive after going off birth control pills, she and her partner should see a doctor because there may be other underlying issues.
I’ve also heard that some people believe that condoms are 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy but the rate is closer to 98 percent but with ‘perfect condom use’.
Any error with using condoms can increase the risk of breakage or slippage which drastically decreases its efficacy.
Another popular belief is that birth control pills can cause weight gain or cancer.
Quote: Consumers could consult a pharmacist about the suitability of a contraception method, especially if they have certain medical conditions.
1Twenty80: How can members of the community discern which form of contraception is right for them?
Chua: They should get their doctor or pharmacist to counsel them on the various methods that are available and a decision should then be made on which method is the most suitable for them.
1Twenty80: For consumers, what are good questions to ask a pharmacist?
Chua: Consumers could consult a pharmacist about the suitability of a contraception method, especially if they have certain medical conditions. They could also consult the pharmacist on missed pill management, as well as the common side effects of a particular contraceptive method to effectively manage these situations. In any case, consumers must be prepared to provide an honest account of their lifestyle and medical history as these factors would influence the advice provided by the pharmacist.
1Twenty80: As for pharmacists, are there any initiatives for them to better educate the community on contraception?
Chua: There are several tools pharmacists can use to educate consumers on the topic of contraception. Chatbots such as ‘Ask Maya’, available via
Facebook messenger which promotes conversations about contraception in a private space in addition to providing verified information that augments the typical contraception counselling pharmacists have with consumers. Nevertheless, the use of ‘Ask Maya’ is fitting only in non-medical circumstances and is not meant to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.
1Twenty80: What is your advice to our readers regarding being proactive when it comes to their health?
Chua: There is so much we could avoid by going from being reactive to proactive. From acute heart diseases to unplanned pregnancies, health problems often stem from ignorance or a lack of awareness, and the first step to bucking that trend is to be informed. So, start asking questions to your family pharmacist and doctor, or simply spend your downtime keeping up with health topics from credible sources.