U-E: Wrong family planning pills given to basic school, SHS students – Health Directorate

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The Upper East Regional Health Directorate has refuted claims that, iron and folic acid supplements given to adolescent girls in basic and senior high schools are family planning pills.

According to the directorate, the myths and misconceptions that iron and folic acid supplements are another form of family planning pills and make adolescent girls have heavy bleeding during menstruation are false.

The main aim of the supplements is to replace blood loss after menstruation and ensure sufficient blood levels among adolescent girls to avert deaths through anaemia.

Speaking to Citi News, Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, expressed worry that, the iron and folic acid initiative aimed at reducing anaemic related complications in the region was faced with misconceptions and myths.

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He demystified that, the intervention remains the surest way to reduce anaemic related deaths and promote adolescent health among girls, reiterating the need for parents to allow their girl-child to take the supplements.

“Despite the benefits of Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation for the adolescents, the program has been faced with persistent myths and misconceptions which have negatively affected its uptake and acceptance. Some of these include IFA being seen as a family planning pill, which makes them have heavy bleeding during menstruation.”

“IFA is not a family planning pill. It rather prepares the body for pregnancy. Most of the side effects of the IFA tablet can be addressed. For example, IFA increases blood volume and so there is enough blood in the body, the reason why there is heavy bleeding. These misconceptions can be addressed in all health facilities in the region.”

Dr. Dzotsi, stressed that to reduce adolescent girls’ risk against iron deficiency and anaemia, all stakeholders must work to demystify the myths around the initiative to save more females from anaemic health complications.

“Periodic blood loss through menstruation for the adolescent girl imposes additional need for iron and other essential nutrients, which, if not replenished, can contribute to anaemia in the individual. Anaemic girls have lower pre-pregnancy iron stores, and the pregnancy period is too short to build iron stores for the growing foetus and mother. Adolescence is an opportune time for interventions to address anaemia, as it is a time for rapid growth and development, and a critical time for laying a strong nutrition foundation for childbearing.”

“Providing Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplements during adolescence, and continuing into adulthood improves iron status, and reduces risk of developing iron deficiency and anaemia. Additionally, in a setting like ours, where anaemia prevalence is above 40 percent, the WHO guidelines recommend mass IFA supplementation for menstruating women”.

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