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An unhealthy recklessness

MOHIT M. RAO
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A third of youth get wrong information about birth control

Statistics for unprotected sex in the country are shocking and, according to most practising gynaecologists in the city, youth in Bangalore very much reflect the trend.

According to an international survey, Clueless or Clued up: Your Right to be Informed about Contraception, which involved more than 5,500 sexually active people aged between 15 and 19, 72 per cent of those polled in India have indulged in unprotected sex with new partners. Apart from the increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unprotected sex can also lead to unwanted pregnancies.

“The high numbers are more or less the same for youth from the city,” said fertility expert Meenakshi Bharath.

Gynaecologist Lizzie Cherian concurred: “The trend seems to be increasing among the young. In my experience, about 60 to 70 per cent of the youth in the city have had unprotected sex at some point.”

Low awareness

A key finding of the survey was that nearly 33 per cent said they got wrong information about contraceptives from their friends. “Most youth don't understand contraception, don't believe in contraception and are unaware about its consequences,” said Dr. Bharath.

And with myths about contraceptives lowering sexual prowess or creating infertility, or even that girls gain weight when they take birth control pills, she said: “They seem to be more worried about the side effects rather than the benefits of contraceptives.”

The awareness seems to be low even among those studying medicine, said Riyaz Basha, associate professor, Community Medicine, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute. “There is limited knowledge about the hazards of unprotected sex among the students. Barely about 20 per cent of them use contraceptives,” he said.

Emergency pills

With ads for emergency contraceptive pills suggesting that it is a ‘ cure' for unwanted pregnancies, doctors in the city report widespread misuse. “While the use of emergency contraceptive pill is ‘permissible' once, it should not be used the second time. The high-hormone pills can be very harmful,” said Dr. Bharath.

“A lot of my patients come after the emergency contraceptive pill has failed. What people don't realise is that these pills are not failsafe,” said Dr. Cherian.

Termination

Within seven weeks, pregnancy can be terminated through pills (commonly used pills are mifepristone and misoprostol), but after that, the foetus can only be removed through surgery. The side effects of the pills are similar to that of a miscarriage (with severe cramping and vaginal bleeding), and the risks increase with delay in abortion. “In cases, there can be perfusions of the uterus, or risk of infection after termination,” said Dr. Bharath.

MOHIT M. RAO

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