December 5, 2020
By Melody Mendoza Aguiba
Teleconsultation is steadily increasing acceptance among Filipino women in learning about modern family planning and contraceptive methods.
Besides, reproductive healthcare professionals are now more easily accessible through digital means where they can provide sufficient education to their patients.
Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM)’s executive director, said that many women have yet to be enlightened on traditional beliefs, myths and misconceptions in family planning. These misconceptions contribute to the high unplanned pregnancy rate in the country.
“Much of our work in the past was conducted through face-to-face advocacy communications and public events,” said Usec. Perez. “We need to transition from that setting to another using our help lines and social-media platforms.”
“Already, we have set up systems for women to gain access to health services through virtual channels, where doctors will ask them to go online and have a discussion,” added POPCOM’s chief.
The use of teleconsultation through video calls has started to pick up since the country-imposed lockdowns due to the pandemic, according to Doctor Anywhere physician Dr. Rachel Chin at the Bayer-supported virtual forum on “Women’s Health, Empowerment, and Progress.
“Based on statistics, telemedicine is filling a critical gap for women during these times. Despite not being physically in the same room, telemedicine is not impersonal,” confirmed Dr. Chin.
“From my experience, I have had deep consultations with my patients. Good doctors should not be rushing through consu lts—regardless whether they are done face-to-face, or via video call.”
Teleconsultation, she remarked, allows patients to be as personal in confiding to doctors their concerns regarding reproductive health and sensitive information:
“Health care professionals can tailor advice on the topic of women’s health. They can provide a safe space for women to confide in and recommend options to reduce future health uncertainties, such as through regular screening, vaccination, or contraception.”
According to Dr. Chin, teleconsultation brings convenience to patients who do not have to wait at doctors’ offices. Appointment of schedule of consult may be fixed. Patients may also choose female doctors if they find information being shared to be sensitive.
“With telemedicine, women can pick and select a doctor of their choice to consult at their fingertips—rather than having to check personally or contact different clinics,” she added.
In support of POPCOM during the pandemic, Bayer has increased focus on its social-media program on Facebook, Ask Mara Ph, to reach out to more Filipino women. The platform houses practical and accessible information on the different contraceptive options available, while addressing common misconceptions about birth control.
“Many women ask me about the side effects of contraceptive pills. While it depends on each individual, there are definite benefits from taking them,” said Dr. Amity B. Casurao-Trono, an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Primarily, the contraceptive pill can prevent ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, according to a published study of the Journal of the American Medical Association-Oncology.
“The pill has been one of the most effective birth control methods. It also has added benefits—including prevention of rheumatoid arthritis, reduction of risks from ovarian cancer, and even address polycystic (ovary) syndrome.” said Dr. Casurao-Trono. “It can address hormone-related fluid retention experienced by some women when they’re about to have a period.”
“First and foremost, however, women should consult their doctor before using the pill or other modern contraceptives,” added Dr. Casurao-Trono.
Bayer also supports the celebration of the World Contraception Day (WCD) every September 26. One of its reproductive-health education programs is “Your Life,” which targets 13- to 25-year-old women as participants in learning about reproductive health. WCD is part of the United Nations’ (UN) movement “Every Women Every Child.”
The UN estimates that today 151 million women all over the world aged between 15 and 49 use the pill as their contraceptive method of choice. There were 99 million unplanned pregnancies from 2010 to 2014, of which 56 percent ended in abortion, according to “Uneven Progress and Unequal Access” published in 2018.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund projected that unplanned pregnancies in the Philippines will total to 214,000 this year. For 2021, it will increase to 740,000—almost a 50% increase. As part of its sustainability targets, Bayer is looking to provide 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries with access to modern contraception methods by 2030 to address this global concern in developing countries. It has regularly supported POPCOM’s social-media programs, so that more child-bearing women can be empowered to make wise choices in their reproductive health. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)