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Asha reaches out to all: Free contraceptives at doorstep gets a healthy acceptance

The free of cost distribution of contraceptives at one’s doorstep and/or at a minimal cost of Re one per packet is also among the measures to curb unwanted pregnancies.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
September 27, 2016 3:42:26 am

No sooner than it was rolled out in April this year, as many as 13.46 lakh contraceptives were delivered within three months to rural homes in Maharashtra free of cost. Having a pill handy and delivered right at one’s doorstep has also had Raigad and Beed districts claiming the highest share of emergency contraceptive pills.

On the occasion of World Contraception Day (Sept 26), a quarterly report by the Demographic and Evaluation Cell of the State Family Welfare Bureau with headquarters in Pune from April to June this year showed that at least 10.74 lakh condoms were distributed by the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers free of cost at all 34 districts. Another 2.5 lakh oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) were delivered to rural homes while there was an increasing demand for emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) with ASHA workers delivering 12,250 in the first three months.

“A total of 58,184 ASHA workers were involved in the mammoth exercise. Our main aim is to increase awareness about safe contraceptive measures. These include condoms, OCPs and ECPs. In the first phase, we have covered 352 blocks in 34 districts,” said Dr N D Deshmukh, Assistant Director, Family Planning, Maharashtra.

The free of cost distribution of contraceptives at one’s doorstep and/or at a minimal cost of Re one per packet is also among the measures to curb unwanted pregnancies.

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“Newly-married couples also hesitate to buy condoms from medical stores due to social stigma and awkwardness. They continue with unprotected sex, at the risk of unwanted pregnancies. To avoid such situations, the family planning department has introduced this scheme and launched international standard contraceptives,” Deshmukh said.

For instance in Raigad district, 2,700 ECPs were rolled out within three months followed by Beed district with 2,051 ECPs. Nagpur saw the largest takers for 4.01 lakh condoms and another 90,704 OCPs. A total of 21,336 condoms were distributed in Pune district along with 14,417 OCPs and 200 ECPs. Sindhudurg district also had a large chunk of condoms distributed here — 93,060 followed by Satara that took 43,598 condoms.

“The contraceptives are of international quality and attractively designed to appeal to couples. After completing the first phase the second one will be undertaken in the municipal corporation areas,” Deshmukh said.

At the city family welfare bureau, in charge Dr Anjali Sabne said that the state government’s stock is yet to be received. “However in 2015-16, we have distributed 5.9 lakh condoms and 11,764 women have undergone sterilization procedure as part of family planning method in the city,” Sabne said.

Admitting the need to provide adequate knowledge about contraception, Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India said, teenagers struggle to access contraception due to a range of deterrents. “There is a lack of accessible information. Also, issues related to sexual and reproductive health are not spoken freely. The country has over 225 million adolescents (10-19 years), which is around 21 per cent of the population and over 189 million youth (15-24 years), which is 19 per cent of the population,” said Muttreja.

Instant copper-T protection

Copper-T -an intrauterine device for long acting reversible contraception— can be fixed within 48 hours of delivery and has now being given a wide push by the state. Most women don’t get time to return after the delivery and fix it due to her workload. This contraceptive provides protection from unwanted pregnancies for 10 years. An IUCD reference manual for medical officers and nursing personnel has also been released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In India, only 2% of married women of reproductive age use IUCDs, though the last DLHS-3 survey (2007-2008) has shown an increase in the contraceptive use to 54%.

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