of December 2015 was a notable day in Egypt's history.
On that day, Egypt's population reached a staggering 90 million, bringing back into the forefront the problem of the disproportionate increase of people living in the country to the adequacy of resources and quality of life.
Around the time of the UN conference of Population and Development conducted in Egypt in 1994, a notable decline in the population growth rate took place, prompted by a huge media campaign and governmental efforts. The rate of fertility in Egypt reached its lowest in 2008, before it gained momentum again.
Ahram Online met with a panel of experts who convened on 17 December to shed light on the latest statistics and discuss various problems associated with the problematic increase in population, unplanned pregnancies and new methods of birth control in the country.
"Recent studies by the Centre of Economic and Financial Research and Studies (CEFRS) show that expenditure of one Egyptian pound promoting family planning saves LE59 from the total national expenditure," says Dr Maged Abu Seada, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Ain Shams University, stressing on the role of medics, society and media in bringing back family planning into the forefront.
"According to the Ministry of Health, 59 percent of married women use family planning methods. Still, there is a need to provide birth control methods for each case on its own. Civil and government organisations must join forces to reduce the number of unplanned births each year, which has surpassed 400,000," he said.
According to the WHO, heightened issues of health problems and sometimes fatality are closely associated with unintended pregnancy
Abu Saeda added that according to 2008 statistics, 14 percent all pregnancy cases in the country are unplanned, of which only 5 percent are untimed, and the rest absolutely unwanted.
Dr Mohamed Momtaz, professor of gynaecology at Cairo University, shed light on the different methods of contraceptives favoured by Egyptian women.
"The percentage of women using an intrauterine device or contraceptive coil dropped by 17 percent between 2008 and 2014, and the use of contraceptive injections fell also, but to a lesser extent,” he says.
"On the other hand, the use of pills has significantly risen due to more acknowledgment of their wide benefits, including high efficiency and minimal side effects, but myths and misconceptions still loom," he said.
From the USA, Dr Lee Philip, chief of gynaecology at North Western University, Chicago, took part in the discussion panel, stressing that in developed countries and wherever awareness prevails, the oral contraceptive pill tops any other method
"Pregnancy is the stage when women are at highest exposure to illness,” Philip says.
"Some of the benefits of the new generation of birth control pills , like YAZ for example , surpasses the notion of maximum efficiency and minimal side effects to include also reduction in ovarian and endometrial cancers, which is an advantage overlooked by most people.”
He added that new generation and top notch pills also lower rates of pelvic inflammatory disease, haemorrhaging and anaemia, as well as protects against endometrial migration and benign breast tumours, all of which are advantages overlooked by many societies due to fear and lack of awareness.
"Despite all efforts, 92 percent of Egyptians still fear contraceptive methods before the birth of the first child, and many women do not adhere to each method’s guidelines or stop usage due to a number of factors, on top of which comes the husband’s objections to the method employed and misleading information on hormones," said Abu Saeda.
Momtaz highlighted common misconceptions about contraceptive pills among Egyptians, including the belief that pills should not be taken before the first pregnancy occurs; that pills are prohibited for women who suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure; that only very young women are supposed to take the pill; and that pill consumption leads to the development of tumours.
According to the Egyptian Ministry of Health, the fertility rate is 3.5 kids for every woman ranging from the ages of 15 till 49. Rates are higher in rural areas compared to urban ones, and in Upper Egypt compared with other parts of the country.
The number of married Egyptian women using birth control methods in 1980 was 24 percent, and increased to 59 percent by 2014.
"In Egypt, 20 percent of pregnancies happen in the first 24 months after the birth of babies due to lack of awareness and accurate information. At any given point in time, almost 40 percent of married women shun birth control methods, and if we aim to have a grip on the increase in population, [the number of women using birth control] has to increase to 80 percent," Momtaz concluded.