The modern Indian woman — working or not — knows how to make her own decisions and live life on her terms. Which is why she is unafraid to make certain choices when it comes to her health and her body. One of them is the choice of whether or not she is ready to become a mother, and if she ever will be.
This choice is made possible with the help of contraceptive tools — and there are many options and varieties available for her to choose from. Dr Neha Bothra, Consultant Gynaecologist & Obstetrician, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi — a Fortis Network Hospital — believes it is inexcusable if women today do not educate themselves about their contraceptive options.
“Traditionally, contraceptives are classified as either permanent or temporary methods. Out of the temporary methods, some are short-acting and some are long-acting. The latter, also known as Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) are the most convenient, easy-to-use and safe birth control alternatives available to women today,” she says.
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The doctor suggests some safe and newer contraceptive methods:
* Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (IUDs): IUDs were previously touted to be suitable only for women who have had one or more children. However, with the advent of smaller devices and those that additionally release hormones locally in order to control heavy bleeding, IUDs are now increasingly being used by women of all ages. These newer IUDs not only help in reducing heavy menstrual flow, but they also help in controlling menstrual cramps and are valuable in the treatment of endometriosis.
They require no repeated checks and interventions once inserted, they do not require any additional assistance at the time of intercourse and have one of the lowest failure rates. These qualities make IUDs the ideal choice for the working women of today.
* Newer contraceptive pills: When the birth control pill was first introduced in the 1960s, it was of far different composition and strength than the ones available now. Today, there is a wide range of birth control pill options in the market. Each comes with a unique benefit which can cater to a particular woman’s needs. Many have low hormonal content when contraceptive benefit is the only requirement.
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Some have alternative progesterone components which aid in the treatment of PCOS. Others are designed for prolonged use like three or six months in continuity without a break, for those who wish for longer contraceptive cover and are comfortable with no periods for a long time. They are also helpful in the treatment of endometriosis and other hormonal imbalances that a woman may encounter during her reproductive life. When used correctly and responsibly, the pill is a woman’s friend.
* Injectable contraceptives: In the same way that hormone-eluting IUDs provide contraceptive benefit by releasing progesterone inside the endometrial cavity, depot (meaning long-duration of release) preparations of progesterone hormone are used for injection, and are effective contraceptives. Depending on their composition they are injected every month or every three months. When taken timely, they have low failure rates.
* Contraceptive implant: This is a small, plastic, hormone-releasing device inserted under local anaesthesia in the upper arm of the woman. It starts providing contraceptive efficacy after seven days of insertion. Once inserted, it is effective for up to four years, though it can be removed at any time that the woman wishes and the return to fertility is quick. Because it does not require any daily medication, it is safe and easy to use, it does not require any intervention at the time of intercourse and has a very low failure rate. This is a favoured contraceptive method among women in western countries. It is being considered for use in India as well.
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* Contraceptive vaginal ring: The vaginal ring is a soft, pliable, hormone-releasing ring, which is inserted high in the vagina. It is inserted and removed cyclically and works like the birth control pill. When inserted it does not cause any pain or discomfort and does not interfere with intercourse. This method, too, is not available in India. It has the benefit of not requiring daily tablets, and it also ensures a cyclical period every month, which is reassuring for many women.
* Contraceptive patch: Just like the contraceptive ring, the contraceptive patch eliminates the need to consume tablets every day. It is applied every week and just like the ring, the woman will experience a period during the hormone-free period.