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World Contraception Day: Everything you need to know about contraception

By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 24 September 2021

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Every year, on 26th September, people across the globe observe World Contraception Day (WCD). The day is a part of a global campaign to raise awareness around modern contraceptive methods and to help young adults make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health. The aim of WCD is to ensure that every pregnancy in the world is planned and desired.

About World Contraception Day

World Contraception Day (WCD) was first observed on 26th September 2007 to improve the understanding of birth control and family planning. The major objectives of WCD are to increase understanding of contraception’s effectiveness in preventing unwanted pregnancies, which most often lead to high-risk abortions and maternal mortality, and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.

WCD is supported by various eminent government and international NGOs like the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health, the Asian Pacific Council on Contraception, the International Federation of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), among others.

Importance of contraception

Access to contraceptive information and methods are fundamental to the health of all individuals. The prevention of unintended pregnancies plays a pivotal role in reducing the incidence of maternal ill-health and deaths. Contraception and family planning can be beneficial in delaying pregnancies in young girls and older women who are at an increased risk of health problems from unintended pregnancies. By reducing rates of unintended pregnancies, contraception also significantly minimizes the need for unsafe abortion while lowering the risk of HIV transmissions from mothers to newborns.

Different types of contraception

The most commonly used types of contraception methods are:

  • Condoms
  • Oral contraceptives (the pill)
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Tubectomy
  • Vasectomy.

Contraception: Myths vs facts

Over the years, certain myths have come to be associated with contraception. Some of those are:

Myth 1 - Contraceptive pills can cause infertility in women

Fact: Oral contraceptive pills are effective only when a woman takes them regularly. As soon she quits taking the pill, she can become pregnant.

Myth 2 - Use of contraceptives can increase the risk of cancer

Fact: According to experts, oral contraceptive pills can actually lower the risk of certain cancers, such as ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, in women. Therefore, it can be said that oral contraceptives offer some form of protection against these cancers. It is suspected that there is some association between oral pills and breast cancer. However, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that oral contraceptives can increase the risk of breast cancer. It is best to consult a gynaecologist before one begins to take oral contraceptive pills. 

Myth 3 - Condoms offer a 100% guarantee against unwanted pregnancies

Fact: There is some truth to this myth. However, it must be noted that male condoms have a failure rate of around 14%. This means that its efficacy against unwanted pregnancies is 97% (correct and consistent use) and 86% (incorrect and inconsistent use). Nevertheless, condoms can offer protection of more than 90% against both viral and bacterial sexually transmitted infections.

Myth 4 - Oral contraceptives cause weight gain

Fact: Women are unlikely to experience significant weight gain due to the use of oral contraceptive pills; one may put on weight for various other reasons. According to experts, the pills can potentially lower the risk of menstrual bleeding and cramps. Moreover, the pills are also beneficial against other gynaecological problems such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

Myth 5 - Contraception is only for women

Fact: Planning a pregnancy requires a joint decision by a couple. Similarly, contraception should also be considered teamwork by both partners. A couple should identify which method is most suitable for them. A qualified physician can help them in this process.

Landscape of family planning and contraceptive use in India

  • In 1952, India became the first country in the world to launch a National Programme for Family Planning.
  • According to a World Bank report, the contraceptive prevalence in India was reported at 53.5% in 2016. Contraceptive prevalence is the proportion of women who are currently using, or whose sexual partner is currently using, at least one type of contraception.
  • In 2017, India made two very specific, data-driven pledges - to invest over 22,000 crore rupees of domestic resources in family planning by 2020, and to increase the country's modern contraceptive prevalence for married women from 53.1% to 54.3% by 2020. Both these commitments have been fulfilled by the government.
  • According to a report by the Family Planning 2020 (FP 2020) alliance, a global partnership that supports the reproductive rights of women and girls, more than 13.9 crore women and girls now have access to modern methods of contraception in India.
  • In 2020 alone, contraceptives helped prevent over 18 lakh unsafe abortions, 5.45 crore unintended pregnancies, and 23,000 maternal deaths in India.

Takeaway

World Contraception Day (WCD) is part of a worldwide campaign that aims to improve awareness of modern contraceptive methods. The day is observed to help enhance the understanding of contraception’s usefulness in avoiding unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. The annual event is backed by a coalition of reputed NGOs and medical societies with an interest in sexual and reproductive health. Another major objective of WCD is to address some of the misconceptions surrounding contraception. Thanks to awareness-building initiatives like WCD, countries like India have made tremendous progress in preventing unplanned pregnancies, high-risk abortions, maternal illnesses, and deaths.

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