ndia is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2027. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
ndia is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2027. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Health ministry revives oral contraceptives as condoms fail to attract Indians

  • On world population day on 11 July, the ministry released at least three television commercials to promote oral contraceptives
  • There has been a slow uptake of condoms in India clearly indicting men’s ignorance towards their responsibility of family planning

After major push for injectible contraceptives and professing usage of condoms, that still witness a nominal uptake for family planning by Indians, union ministry of health and family welfare is now going back to revive the category of oral contraceptives.

On world population day on 11 July, the ministry released at least three television commercials to promote oral contraceptives and debunking the myths surrounding them. “The Government has increased focus on spacing at birth to achieve improved maternal and child health outcomes. Keeping this in mind, new communication and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material were designed this year and launched today," said Harsh Vardhan, union health minister.

“This focuses on improving the uptake of spacing methods by addressing myths and misconceptions prevailing around these methods and reviving the category of oral contraceptive pills and improving the uptake of Condoms and Injectable Contraceptives," he said adding that population stabilisation is a crucial determinant of quality of life and achievement of universal health coverage goals.

While majority of contraception options are meant for women in India-- sterilisation, contraceptive pill, intra-uterine device (IUD), post-partum IUD--there has been a slow uptake of condoms in India clearly indicting men’s ignorance towards their responsibility of family planning. According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-2016, barely 5.6% of the surveyed subjects said they used condoms for birth control. Compared to the previous NFHS, carried out in 2005-2006, as little as 5.2% men used condoms.

A study published in the latest issue of International Organisation of Scientific Research, stated that despite India being the first country in the world to launch a large scale family planning program, the stigma surrounding family planning has been prevailing and contraception has been a bottleneck in the national programs for long.

The study was conducted to assess the reasons related to non-acceptance of injectable contraception Antara at the Antara Clinic of Medical College, Kolkata. On thematic analysis it was observed that there was fear regarding side effects that was the major determinant for non-acceptance of intra-muscular contraceptive. However stigma related to the method also emerged as an important social contributor.

“We need to position health as a component of all public policies. The occasion also provides a valuable and potent platform to discuss issues related to gender equality, maternal and child health, human rights, poverty and other development determinants," said Harsh Vardhan.

According to a United Nations (UN) report released last month, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2027. UN department of economics and social affairs, Population division (2019), came up with the World Population Prospects 2019 stating that the largest increases in population between 2019 and 2050 will take place in-- India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States of America.

For improved access to contraceptives and family planning services in high fertility districts spreading over seven high focus states, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched “Mission Pariwar Vikas" in 2016. Special focus has been given to 146 high fertility Districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, with an aim to ensure availability of contraceptive methods at all the levels of Health Systems. Its overall goal is to reduce India's overall fertility rate to 2.1 by the year 2025.

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