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Awareness of contraceptive methods in a rural set-up in India
– Dr Alka Verma and Dr Suneeta Mittal, AIIMS, New Delhi

Three-fourths of our population lives in rural India. Any measure employed to limit our population growth rate of nearly 2% must be focussed on the rural masses. We analyzed the responses of 122 women, attending a rural hospital in Ballabgarh (Haryana), recorded on a pre-designed questionnaire for contraceptive awareness between June and September 1999.

The interviewed women were young and in their child-bearing age (18-41 years), and half (51.6%) of them were married before 19 years of age. Half (49.2%) of them were illiterate and nearly 43% had been to school and could read and write.

Of the interviewed group, 96% women considered family planning essential. However, they preferred to conceive soon after marriage due to social pressures, have two (41.8%) or three (43.4%) children and then opt for sterilization. They (61%) voiced strong desire for at least one male child. The women did not feel burdened bringing up many young children and nearly 44% were averse to spacing. However, most were inclined for 2-3 years of spacing.

Awareness of contraceptive methods was high among these women, sterilization (95%), IUD (87.6%), oral pills (88.5%), condoms (83.6%), but their usage was very poor. Only 16 women had used IUD and 10 had used pills in the past. Only 13 women knew about emergency contraception, while 2 had actually used it. However, 20 women said they could have avoided an unplanned pregnancy with timely use of EC, another 22 expressed their desire to know about EC.

It is, therefore, apparent that illiteracy, early marriage, quick successive childbirths, and preference for a permanent family planning method need to be addressed when counselling rural women. There is an urgent need to remove social prejudices against a girl child and educate women about spacing pregnancies. The couples should be counselled to delay the birth of their first child and encouraged to use spacing methods, because decision for sterilization often results in yet another unwanted pregnancy.

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