Use of emergency contraception is rising rapidly in India

Doctors in India report that emergency contraception sales are surging. Some women are using EC instead of regular contraception and not taking precautions against sexually transmitted infections, the Washington Post reports.

About 200,000 units of the I-pill — the equivalent of the EC pill plan B in the U.S. — have been sold monthly in India since its launch in August 2007. The I-pill costs less than $2 and can reduce the chances of pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. Gynecologists say that many young women report using EC several times monthly instead of using condoms.

The growing popularity of the I-pill comes as sexual behavior in India is becoming more openly discussed, especially among young people. The country’s economic boom has drawn a growing number of young people into the workplace and urban areas, away from their families. Health workers say that the availability of EC is empowering for women in what is historically a patriarchal culture. The I-pill is heavily promoted on Indian billboards, in women’s magazines and through a television ad campaign, which markets the pill as a way to “avoid the quandary of an abortion.”

Many gynecologists and health workers say that EC has helped prevent abortion, which is legal in India but often performed by untrained practitioners in unsanitary conditions. Up to seven million abortions are performed in India annually, and more than 20,000 women die each year due to complications, according to the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. Gynecologist Kaushiki Dwivedee said, “India is the second-largest population in the world, and we have never been proactive as far as the contraception is concerned,” adding that abortion has been used as a form of birth control.

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