World Contraceptive Day: A look at the new methods of birth control

CHENNAI: M Divya (name changed) remembers the crazy mood swings and the pimples she gets every time she has to take that morning-after pill. Her menstrual cycle getting affected and the sense of weakness it leaves her with has almost become a routine. “He does not like to use condoms,” reasons Divya on why she has to undergo what has become a traumatic phase.

Her husband also had the “heat of the moment” as the excuse and the option of the emergency pill in the back of his mind.

But with newer contraceptive methods for women becoming increasingly popular, experts say women need not just be dependent on their male partners to wear condoms. Methods like vaginal rings — which is just a plastic ring that releases small quantities of hormones and placed on the vagina — can empower women in preventing unwanted pregnancies and go into the sex act with little fear of the consequences. And more importantly, they need not permanently lose their fertility by opting for sterilisation.

“Such contraceptive methods are on the rise primarily among urban women. Some of them can even place them on their own,” says Anita Victor, who works in public health sector in an NGO.

She adds that in most rural areas, condoms and emergency pills are still the only options known, even though several government hospitals are trying to promote the newer methods.

Contraceptive methods for women that have been getting popular of late, range from vaginal rings that women themselves can place, to long-lasting implants that have to be placed with the help of a doctor or nurse.When Kanimozhi, a city-based doctor, suggests Copper T, a contraceptive device that is implanted into the uterus, to her patients, most of them ask if it would hurt their husband during the act. Even wild misconceptions like the implants would migrate through the body and will lead to chronic physical disorder still pervades among several people.

But doctors say at least in cities, women are getting more and more aware of such methods to take more control over their sexual life. Implants like copper-T have a life cycle of three years and women can remove it any point, if they wish to get pregnant.

But what appalls doctors like Kanimozhi is that most of the cases of women coming for consultation for contraception come alone. “The men somehow don’t worry as much about their partner. Only one in 15 patients are accompanied by their husbands for contraceptive consultation,” she says.

Contraception is a responsibility that involves both sexes. “If the wife comes alone, she would have to go back and explain the options to her husband and then he makes a hasty decision for her or the situation gets emotional,” says Kanimozhi. She believes condoms might not be effective in long-term relationships.

Doctors prescribe the preventive contraceptives to women depending on factors such as age, frequency of sexual activity, regularity of periods cycle and hormone levels. Generally, couples are more open to long-term contraceptives soon after a delivery.

Priyanka Mehta as well agrees that dealing with a couple is easier as the woman won’t feel lonely through this process. “Doctors need to inform the patients while fixing the appointment that they should walk in as a couple,” she said.

Not just avoiding an unwanted pregnancy, what experts see as the advantage is preventing the trauma that women undergo when either opting for an unwilling sterilisation or an abortion.

“When women are not properly informed about contraceptives and are forced into surgical procedures, they might develop depression or severe anxiety,” said R Thara from Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF).