ON THE FRONTLINE: It's Never Too Late to Learn About Contraception
Victoria had her first child at just 16 years old. Now after giving birth to 11 children she is learning about contraception for the first time.
She arrived at Marie Stopes International Bolivia’s El Alto clinic, high above the capital La Paz, to be treated for a sexually transmitted infection, but after receiving counselling on contraception she is considering having an IUD fitted. She also plans to share her new-found knowledge with her children, so unlike her they are able to choose the size of their family.
“I have had 11 children, nine are still living, and I don’t want anymore,” says Victoria. “I started having kids at 16 years old. I had no idea about family planning. My husband and I have always practiced the natural interruption method.”
Although Bolivia has made considerable progress towards improving the state of reproductive and maternal health for women across the country, a lack of awareness about contraception is contributing to the high maternal mortality rate of 200 deaths per 100,000 women and teen pregnancy rate above the continental average at 70 girls per 100,000.
With dozens of clients per day, the El Alto clinic is one of Marie Stopes International Bolivia’s busiest. Yet it provides a welcome calm in one of the poorest, fastest growing cities in the country.
In her office, Dr. Sara Taquichiri patiently shows Victoria the various contraceptive methods and explains each one in detail, as she huddles next to a portable radiator.
It’s the start of winter in Bolivia and the temperature is four degrees Celsius. The region’s high altitude brings cool temperatures all year round, but few buildings have central heating.
“This is the only thing I don’t like about my job. It’s cold,” she says rubbing her hands together for warmth.
When asked if there is anything else she doesn’t like she replies:
“No, I love working with Marie Stopes International. I love that we work to international standards and I love providing reproductive information and services to women.”
Dr. Taquichiri has been working in reproductive and maternal health for 16 years, eight of which she has spent with Marie Stopes International Bolivia.
“They found me to set up this clinic,” she says with a smile crossing her face as she glances proudly around the room.
When asked which method might be best for Victoria, Dr. Taquichiri responds:
“I would recommend an IUD for her because she doesn’t want more children and soon will enter the menopause.”
Victoria is intrigued and says she will think about an IUD and all the others and make a decision during her next appointment. But one thing she is sure of now, is that she is going to share her newly acquired knowledge on family planning with her children.
Dr. Taquichiri smiles from ear to ear upon hearing Victoria’s revelation.
It’s clear that she truly loves her job.
Learn more about concerns about contraception in Bolivia at our global website.