Most Malaysians keep mum on birth control

PETALING JAYA - One in eight Malaysians have never discussed birth control with their partners although 90 per cent of them recognise the need for it, a survey has found.

The Bayer HealthCare survey, conducted with 216 respondents aged between 20 and 35, found that while slightly more than half (54.6 per cent) felt comfortable discussing contraception with their partners, one in eight (12.5 per cent) had never discussed birth control with their partners and only 22.7 per cent talked about it at the start of a relationship.

The survey also found that 17.6 per cent of the respondents depended on the Internet to look up on contraception matters while another 13 per cent preferred to discuss it with their doctors.

Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals medical director Dr Sharon Chong said the survey highlighted the inconsistency between acknowledging that communication on contraception was crucial and the actual act of engaging in a conversation about it.

"Unfortunately, this disconnect can lead to the use of emergency contraception, commonly known as the morning-after pill, whose frequent use can resort to certain health risks and side effects," she said in a statement.

The survey was part of Bayer HealthCare's public education campaign, aimed at encouraging open conversation on contraception among couples.

The statement noted that the disconnect between beliefs and practice was worrying since a sizeable number of those surveyed - 29.6 per cent - have used emergency contraception (either they or their partner) at least once over the past year.

Also, nearly a quarter do not use any form of contraception while of those who do, 54 per cent forgot to use contraception at some point or other.

"The reason for this inconsistency can perhaps be explained by the fact that 22.7 per cent avoided talking about birth control because of the perception that their partner has no interest in the issue while another 16.7 per cent feared looking ignorant in their relationship," the statement said.

However, the survey found that 90.3 per cent agreed regular discussion on birth control was important and 91.2 per cent agreed that such discussion would bring a couple closer.

Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia executive director Yeoh Yeok Kim said the foundation of any strong and fulfilling relationship was communication, making plans and continually updating them.

"However, when it comes to open and honest communication in relationships, it is the norm to think about topics such as finances and sometimes emotions," she said.

"We don't realise that contraception is a crucial part for inclusion in that conversation and this silence has to be addressed."