BMC says surgical complications are responsible

Mumbai: Thirty three women have died after undergoing tubectomy procedures in Mumbai in the past 10 years. While 17 died within seven days of undergoing the birth control procedure, 16 died within a month of doing so. Civic officials say most of these deaths were due to complications arising out of multiple Caesarean section operations and septicaemia, but the numbers are not worrisome given that between 17,000 and 20,000 women undergo the procedure every year.

According to data obtained through a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by activist Chetan Kothari, six of the 33 women were not from Mumbai, but many of them had undergone the procedure in the city. Of the total deaths, at least 20 were reported at government-run hospitals.

Tubectomy is a permanent sterilisation procedure in which the woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked so that the fertilised eggs do not reach the uterus, preventing pregnancy. “All the deaths cannot be linked directly to the procedure of tubectomy. Other complications like bleeding and septicaemia are the main reasons,” Dr. Asha Adwani, who heads the BMC’s Family Welfare Department, said.

An article published in the British Medical Journal after the death of 13 women at a sterlisation camp in Chattisgarh in 2014, said, “It is a permanent and irreversible procedure, which means young women who may change their minds later are left with little choice. Like any surgical procedure, tubectomy carries the risk of complications. Ectopic pregnancies, where an embryo gets implanted outside the uterus, can also occur in some cases. A few studies indicate tubectomies can increase the risk of abnormal uterine bleeding. Overall, tubectomies fail in one out of every 200 cases, with the risk of failure increasing every year after the procedure”.

Men avoid sterilisation

According to Dr. Adwani, non-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) performed on men is far safer than tubectomy. “But men show extreme reluctance in opting for sterlisation,” she said.

Despite the fact that there are no side-effects or complications related to vasectomies, men are difficult to convince. The safety of the procedure is evident from the fact that not a single death was reported after vasectomy procedures in the past 10 years. “Men are reluctant to undergo the procedure as they think it will lead to impotency,” Mr. Kothari said.

When compared to female sterlisation, the numbers are negligible. For example, BMC carried out 21,062 tubectomies in 2011-12, 15,149 in 2012-13, 17,158 in 2013-14 and 17,888 in 2014-15. But vasectomy figures have steadily fallen from 2,082 in 2011-12, 1,195 in 2012-13 to 600 in 2013-14. In 2014-15, only 336 men underwent the procedure.