Birth control and the modern woman
Women have a choice when it comes to their bodies, and various forms of birth control ensure that methods of contraception are now affordable, accessible and discreet.
Birth control has always been a sensitive and often under-discussed topic in Indian society due to the many socio-cultural power and control issues that come with it, most of which prevent a woman from being in charge of her own body. The birth of a child is seen as a social boon or curse, depending on a family’s preference [or not] for gender; a woman is judged as virtuous or barren, or even worse, as a witch, if her womb is unable to produce a child, whereas a man’s potency or impotency is also calculated based on the number of times he has successfully impregnated his wife. Given the aforementioned socio-cultural circumstances, it is easy to understand why the introduction of discreet, affordable and low-risk methods of contraception will serve as a boon to a woman who is rightfully entitled to time her pregnancy or prevent it if she so wishes to, without having to submit to pressure.
For women who wish to explore the many available methods of contraception, it is important for them to do their research and find methods which suit their individual needs and lifestyles. It is also extremely important for women to be aware of the different short and long-term effects of using some methods of birth control, as no method is 100% risk-free.
One of the most important things to understand is the difference between regular birth control pills and the much-hyped, and potentially dangerous “Morning after” pill. While over-the-counter birth control pills contain Estrogen and Progestin which suppress ovulation and also help regulate monthly periods, and are taken for 21 days at a stretch, followed by a gap of 7 days; “morning after” pills contain Levonorgestrel, which have the potential to cause ovarian damage if overused, and are therefore strictly known as “emergency” pills. Confusing the two could lead to a number of health problems, and while both pills are available over-the-counter, it is always advisable to get ones hormone levels evaluated by a qualified gynaecologist prior to ingesting pills.
A qualified gynaecologist will also be in a position to offer additional birth control options, some of which are also over-the-counter, such as the diaphragm, a dome-shaped sheath made of rubber which is inserted into the cervix. They may also recommend the Intrauterine Device [IUD], which is 99% effective and lasts for 10 years, but causes the uterus to expand and needs to be surgically implanted.
India has slowly but surely opened up the idea of women buying female condoms, which are made of polyurethane and offer only slightly less protection than the average male condom. Velvet is an Indian company which sells female condoms, they are slightly more expensive than male condoms as well and are available at a limited number of pharmacies.
While other methods do exist abroad and have been slow to enter the Indian market, the current availability, accessibility and affordability of the aforementioned methods of birth control allow Indian women the freedom to make informed, independent choices on how to deal with their bodies, and gives them the right to conceive or not conceive at will.