10 Things You Thought You Knew But Didn’t – About Sex, Contraceptives, Pregnancy and Abortions

Submitted anonymously:

I had an abortion today. It sounds like a big deal and it was. It’s odd though, how much difference there seems to be between taking an iPill and taking an abortion pill. It’s just a question of 4 odd weeks, and one pill versus three, but somehow somewhere everything changes.

The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s in the US ended up leading to wider-spread incidence of many STDs, and the flower child generation had their ideals tossed out and rubbed in the mud. But as developments in science and gender relations continued (somewhat) hand-in-hand, the issue of reproductive rights came to the forefront, and it’s a battle still being hotly fought. A woman’s right over her own body, versus the “personhood” argument that Oklahoma state thankfully just threw out – when does a fetus really become a person? Whatever your answer to that question, one thing that remains crystal clear in my head is that you can’t value the rights of an unborn unformed embryo over the rights of the person in whose body it is. The woman’s rights must come first. There are cases where obviously abortion should be an option, like rape, extreme complications or disability, grave danger to the mother’s health if the pregnancy is continued, etc. But who is to say that in India the severe social stigma, difficulty in advancing a career, nearly complete decimation of marriage chances, etc, do not constitute grave mental or emotional danger? Isn’t the most important thing about a birth the parents’ ability and willingness to provide the best possible quality of life and opportunities for a child?

All these arguments can be fought out point-by-point at the theoretical level, when it’s removed from personal experience. But what of when it IS personal experience, too close for objectivity, too close for comfort, too close for anything. Then the choice, for an upper middle class, educated, privileged and aware woman like myself, is clear. A lot of people I know have taken an Ipill, relied on it as effective birth control, like a condom. I know someone who planned a night of unprotected intercourse, because it would feel better for her long-term boyfriend, with her safety net being the emergency contraceptive she’d take the next day. Here’s what my experience taught me – nothing is 100% certain, and a condom’s 99% surety is WAY better than doses of hormones and their 98-55% effectiveness. If there’s anything worse being just a statistic, it’s being the minority statistic on a health issue like this.

So here is everything you need to know:

  1. It’s ridiculous that I even have to say this, considering how much it’s drilled into us from every side, but ALWAYS USE A CONDOM. With people like us, we usually know our partner’s sexual history, at least a little, even if it’s a random hook-up. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s heard things. And STDs are relatively hard to find, thank god. (Or maybe the stigma around them is still even greater, and no-one mentions having them even to their closest friends and partners. Or maybe I just don’t know enough people). Point is, from my personal experience, we tend not to worry about STDs, because we wouldn’t be in that position with our partner if we were. We still should be worried. And we should still ALWAYS ALWAYS use a condom. Why ignore that one tiny insignificant layer of protection when it can save you a TON of mental grief, at best, and pregnancy and disease at worst?
  2. If you’ve done it unprotected, take an Ipill. It costs a hundred bucks, is available over the counter, and get over the embarrassment of asking the chemist, people do it all the time. The ipill will work in one of three ways – prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg or prevent the egg from attaching to the endometrial lining.
  3. Now listen carefully. When you buy an Ipill, buy two pregnancy tests as well. They’re called Ican, same company, similar packaging, cost fifty bucks each. Why buy these? Because…
  4. The Ipill is not always effective. I took it within 4 hours of doing the nasty and it should have worked, but it didn’t. You think you’re never gonna be that 1%, but yes, it can happen to you.
  5. Okay, now ladies, start tracking your periods now. It’s a pain, I know, you think it’s useless, but it’s not. Trust me, lying there having a hand thrust up your vagina for a pelvic exam, you’re really gonna wish you were sure about your dates. (You will still have to have a pelvic exam, so there’s no getting away from that hand, really) The dates will help you track your fertility cycle, determine your risk of pregnancy, and god forbid that test comes positive, you’ll be able to count exactly how many weeks and days you’re at. Weeks of pregnancy are NOT counted from the date of conception, but from the date of your last period ending.
  6. Before your period is due, try and look for other signs your body might be giving you. I felt pre-menstrual symptoms like light cramping and fatigue for a long time before my period was due. By week 5, I had started daily morning sickness, mostly just nausea, and I wasn’t eating too much, so the two times I did throw up, it was just water. And then there were cravings – most food seemed very unappetizing, even stuff I love otherwise, and to control the nausea I was sucking on nimbu. I went wild over a tub of chocolate ice-cream, and khatta aam papad never tasted this good. Super major unable-to-keep-anything-down nausea came later.
  7. There are apparently early detection tests that give you an accurate result at ten days, but Ican suggests it’s most effective around the date of the missed period. Take the test. First thing in the morning pee is the best, because it allows the hormones to build up, but holding your pee for maybe 6 hours should be enough. The test is easy, but follow instructions to the T. Most false results are apparently due to testing incorrectly. Take one early, and then another one a week later when your period is due. If negative, congratulations, don’t worry too much about your period not coming, stress can also delay it. Test till you’re sure, false negatives do happen.
  8. If positive, stay calm. Test again. Calculate dates. Talk to your partner, someone you trust, figure out your next step.
  9. You need to visit a doctor. Depending on how far along you are, they’ll suggest either medical abortion or surgical abortion. Apparently abortion pills are available over the counter, but it’s NOT SAFE to take them by yourself. In Delhi, they give you pills up to 2 and half months for unmarried girls, which they push to 3 months for married women with very small kids, extenuating circumstances etc. The pills themselves come packaged as RU486, I think, and cost under Rs. 500. You have three main options on how to go about it.
    1. Find a private gynaecologist, and go to them. Pros: small, relatively less expensive (under 7k). Cons: Very likely to judge you, guilt trip you, fleece you, and possibly could be a distant relative of your mother’s. Less privacy and anonymity. And you never know whether you’ll get a pro-choice or pro-life one, because you can’t ask people for personal recommendations.
    2. Go to a large hospital like Max. Pros: I’ve heard you can use a false name, large so anonymous, professional, safe, clean, and an “upper-class” air-conditioned environment. Cons: Likely to be prohibitively expensive (10-15k), because you’ll probably get an ultrasound, consultation charges are high, they might keep you under observation in which case you pay for a room etc. Also, I would be more likely to go there with my parents if anything else ever went wrong, and I wouldn’t want my medical record available there.
    3. This is what I did. I called Family Planning Association of India’s office just sort of hoping for a list of approved practitioners, who might help me. They said they provide the services, and take walk-in patients till 12 pm, and then after 2 pm. I walked in. They helped me. Pros: Government facility dedicated to providing safe access to reproductive healthcare and rights, so they don’t judge. The counseling was not coercive, it was almost friendly and very helpful in identifying details and answering my questions. The doctors were professional and non-intrusive, and it cost me under 2.5k. Cons: Largely caters to lower income groups, so people unused to or unable to adjust to the environment might have a problem.

10. If you didn’t find out quick enough, follow step 9 and hope for the best. A surgical abortion may still be possible, depending on the time. If not, keeping it discreet is probably no longer an option, tell your parents, let them help you figure out options like giving it up for adoption etc. Best of luck.

My experience with FPAI was a good one. Telling the lady at reception “MTP” (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) made her concerned, discreet, reassuring and even more helpful. From there I was sent for counseling, then to the doctor for medical history, then for a urine and blood test. My blood type is negative, so I needed to buy an Anti-D injection, which was the bulk of my cost. I would never have known about it if I’d taken the pills at home and it could have caused huge complications later. Next was the pelvic exam, then the first pill, and then the injection. The next two pills I took together, exactly 48 hours after the first. The bleeding was supposed to start an hour after that and continue for 15 days. It started early, but intensified after the second set of pills. The pain in that first hour was staggering – I may have passed out from it. The pills work by triggering a miscarriage. My partner said “Ouch, that’s nasty” – there is nothing nice about this. After 15 days, I go back for a check-up to make sure the process is complete.

It’s supposed to be a tremendously traumatic experience, and I read about people who couldn’t handle the guilt even years later. For me, it was scary, yes, but I don’t feel guilty at all. I feel stupid for not using a condom, mildly nauseous, and somehow very grown-up all of a sudden. But it’s my body and my choice. So I do not feel guilty. Maybe the trauma will come with 15 days of heavy bleeding, but I think I’m strong enough to handle it. People I know and know of cried for days. Talking to your partner and to trusted friends helps, and this is just me, but I walked in there alone.

I wanted to write this to share my experience, and help anyone who needs it to find the right information. Condoms rock, morning sickness is debilitating and abortion pills hurt. Like my partner said when I described gory but essential details to him, “Ohh. I’ll keep that in mind for never again.”

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34 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    thanks for sharing this with a brave face.. two years into a relationship (and married to the same man), I totally understand and would keep all this in mind..

    Reply
  2. Neha Jha

    I am actually speechless after reading this. Very brave of you to do that, I must say. You made an informed choice and were not judgmental. Thank you for sharing this with us. I just wish guys understood the main reason behind using condoms. Terminating or preventing pregnancy is not the only benefit. I wish our society had been more understanding and friendly in these cases.

    Reply
  3. Ketki

    Hats off to you for producing that excellent article on abortion. I second you about girls not feeling guilty about the entire process. There is no reason to add emotional trauma to the already intense physical pain.
    I fervently hope that one day the social stigma attached to abortion and the reproductive process, on the whole would be erased, so that women would be able to make sensible choices about their bodies ; choices that won’t be influenced by the society.

    Reply
  4. Ishita Trivedi

    Wow. This was one of the most constructive articles I have read on Youth Ki Awaaz in a while. You start of by talking about the politicisation of a women’s body and the foetus and then move on to more practical advice someone can actually use.

    Okay, so, a little bit about myself. I hope to write a dissertation about abortion services in India and developing countries for my Master’s, and I have done some initial secondary research on this, so I am familiar with the MTP Act and all the jargon surrounding it.

    I am so happy to know that you had a good experience with the government family planning services. Of what I had known from my research, people have had traumatic experiences in the MTP centres and have thus avoided the public health system support that they are liable to receive. I can’t salute your smarts enough that you made this move, because illegal abortions in seedy private clinics is the worst mental trauma a woman can put herself through. Arranging the cash isn’t easy for everyone, the clinic might get booked under the PCPNDT (the female foeticide act) Act and that can lead to your arrest (as has happened), because the police may go through the records/logs of such clinics to book people under PCPNDT. So even if you’re a genuine abortion seeker who didn’t know the sex of your foetus, you might get embroiled in this drama, and thus throwing away any chance of anonymity and mental peace.

    Firstly, congratulations for handling this like an adult; a lot of women our age tend to view such an experience as traumatic just because we are supposed to, and not because it ACTUALLY is that traumatic. Sure, you bleed for 15 days but that can also happen with our monthly menstruation cycle- mine have sometimes gone on for 20 days. What makes one so traumatic and the other just a source of annoyance? It’s nothing but an extension of our views on pre-marital sex as something taboo. That discourse has to change.

    Secondly, your article has the potential to reach out to so many women who might go through/ have gone through this experience and look at it more practically.

    Thirdly, as you pointed out, in the upper middle class circle people always assume that your partner is not going to have a STD, which is like saying if you happen to be ignorant, the problem doesn’t exist at all.

    I wish there was someway of contacting you, because I need qualitative data from people like you who have had an abortion and traversed the public health system to get one. I know it’s a long shot, but if you are okay discussing this for purely academic reasons, please drop me a mail at: [email protected]

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Ishita Trivedi

      Also, if anyone is looking to get an abortion, as this Author reiterates, don’t have the miscarriage inducing pills without medical consultation. I have read horror stories of how bits of foetus can get left behind as bleeding isn’t the most efficient process to remove something from your uterus and the remaining bits can become septic and women have actually died because of septic shock and if not, atleast have had to get a hysterectomy (uterus removed)

      So don’t bother about the shame/guilt etc you MAY experience- you have a right to good health, exercise it :)

      Reply
  5. Anonymous too

    Dear Author,

    Reading your account took me back to my experience and I pretty much re-lived all of it again. I am so happy to know that you are guilt free and understood how important this was for you – that you had the courage to face all of it while keeping your head straight on. I am glad that you shared your experience here not only because it would help so many others who may need to hear your words and not get them from the people that they are close to but also for anyone who can see an abortion in a better light.

    I remember that my prominent feeling was that I couldn’t believe it that this was happening to me. I felt guilty for a long time but for other reasons. I did not go through any quite guilt pangs regarding my decision to have an abortion however all the other people that I spoke to seemed to have gone through a harrowing experience laden with guilt and I felt as if I was a monster not to feel guilty in the first place! Some of my friends were also surprised at my lack of depression. It took me awhile but I got there eventually.

    It does make me sad that we still have to use anonymity to share our experiences but I hope this would change too.

    Thank you for your article. It meant a lot to read about your experience.

    Reply
  6. Amy

    Amazing article ..For me its was like reading my own story … After the incident I am more cautious and more responsible..It was great of you to share this article to the world ..Thank you YOUTH KI AWAAZ for being a platform for these things to be surfaced in our society.!!

    Reply
  7. Sameera

    You opened up a locked door… this issue is talked about a lot discreetly and no one has ever come up with it on the net the way you have…. the worst part about unsafe sex is even if the male doesn’t come inside the female and even if the risk of pregs is relatively small for the female (in reference to the relative safe days), the agony and restlessness during the entire month till the period arrives is of tremendous amounts…. I think birth control should be more easily available… I went to a pretty young gynae once hoping that she would understand my late period scares but she gave me a guilt trip the second she heard Ipill.
    Something very obvious is that I cannot trust google for everything it cannot be a doctor,
    Although I have never been pregnant, but during the pregnancy scares when my period is delayed, I have often thought about what I’m going to do if I get pregnant. I dont think i’ll have guilt issues about abortion, but its a mess and I wish for everyone that they never have to face it especially in a narrow minded patriarchal society.
    for everyone, please take care of yourself and even if the partner is not helpful, remember you are not alone.

    Reply
  8. anon

    Omg NEVER HAVE IPILL. I had an ectopic and it was horrible. Never take it. Do whatever else u have to but dont take ipill. My fallopian tube bursted and it was a horrible experience!

    Reply
  9. Tuneer

    You are strong to take it head on. I would always keep in mind what I just read. Indeed helpful. Cheers to you!

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    Don’t worry if you don’t feel guilty. I didn’t and still don’t.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    “If you’ve done it unprotected, take an Ipill.”
    I don’t think this is good advice. I am 22, have had a similar experience as yours when I was 20, still guilty (unlike you) and don’t know till how long this will stay, and have kinda lapsed into a self-destructive mentality when it comes to reproduction. From all I have heard, I assume Ipills are not at all safe and should be avoided at all costs. It’s a fact that they are a major cause of ectopic pregnancies.
    Glad for you that you overcame the psychological effects of such an experience.

    Reply
    • Author

      You’re right, it should maybe have said that if your partner has come inside you, consider taking an Ipill, specially if you’re in the middle two weeks of your cycle. If you don’t know when in your cycle you are and don’t want to get pregnant, take it. Though of course, there’s a wide variety of sexual activities you could engage in, so the particular risk of your chosen activity has to play a role in the choice, and for that there’s no hard and fast rule or advice that can be given.

      Also, the Ipill can cause lots of complications if taken more than once in 3 months, I believe, though I could be wrong about the frequency. Once or twice a year, if absolutely necessary, should not cause major complications, if the information they provide is correct.

      As for psychological effects, I’m sorry that you’re going through adverse ones, I hope you have someone to talk to. Please do take care of yourself – you have so much to give the world, don’t let near-teenage mistakes rule the rest of your life.

      Reply
  12. Vini

    Kudos to your courage Author. Thanks for sharing this. This will definitely make us girls more conscious about these stuffs and on what to do and what not to do,

    Reply
  13. christa092

    Why not use birthcontrol pill instead of emergency contraceptives if you are sexually active? If you take them every day the chance of getting pregnant is extremely small, especially if you also use a condom. Condoms can fail and emergency contraceptives don’t work if you have your ovulation at that time. Abortion and emergency contraceptives are not the answer! Ofcourse if you got pregnant by excident and you are not ready to have a child, its good that you have a choice. However, why does this article not advocate for birth control pills? They are more effective and also better for your body.

    Reply
    • D Gill

      For someone writing an article about birth control and responsibility, she missed the mark. What is this “With people like us, we usually know our partner’s sexual history, at least a little, even if it’s a random hook-up. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s heard things. And STDs are relatively hard to find, thank god”. Are you serious?? How does knowing someone tell you anything about their sexual history, not everyone broadcasts their sexual activity. It’s very irresponsible to base your decisions on knowing someone, as you say, a little. It only takes one unfortunate encounter to catch a disease. And sad to day, but for example: some guys go to see prostitutes and even if you know them, they wont tell you. Even if it’s just one time, that is HIGH RISK behaviour and one slipped condom or broken condom can result in catching a deadly disease. Using your impression of someone to judge wether or not they might or might not have a disease is the height of irresponsibility.

      Sorry article writer but your article is spreading somewhat irresponsible info. Where was the mention of birth control pills?

      If you’re going to be sexually active be responsible!
      1) use a condom (unless you have your partner tested, you don’t know if they have a disease or not and coming from a good background means nothing and 2) ladies, use birth control pills, condoms are not always 100% effective

      Reply
      • Author

        I’m sorry, I was much younger and didn’t realize the benefits of the pill since a. I wasn’t super sexually active anyway b. I didn’t know how to get them without a prescription which would have meant my parents finding out, and without a different reason like PCOD or something, it would have been impossible to explain, and c. I trusted the few partners I had. You are right though, that the pill is better and that a partner’s word perhaps should not always be trusted, depending on your relationship with them. Where you’re wrong is in thinking this article was about sexual responsibility. It was about my experience and what I learned from it, plain and simple. And I’d ask you also to remember when you take a judgemental tone in comments on articles like these, to remember that behind them is a real person with real, difficult experiences, and your criticism stings.

      • D Gill

        You misunderstood me. I am in no way judging your choices to engage in sexual activity. I see nothing wrong with people engaging in consensual sex. We are all human and human beings have sexual needs.

        My comments were about responsibility health wise in the 2 ways I pointed out, which your write-up left out. By 1) not judging how ‘safe’ someone is by the mere fact that you think you know them, because it’s meaningless and people sometimes lie or are unaware of their own health issues 2) using birth control & condoms.
        I realize that you are writing about your own experience but this is critical health info and in my opinion it should have been included.

  14. Anshul Tewari

    This is, till date, one of the best pieces I have read on Youth Ki Awaaz. Thank you for this, Author. You have no clue how many emails we have received from readers thanking us for putting this up :-)

    Reply
    • The Author

      Thanks Anshul. I’m glad it’s reaching people, that’s what it was written for. A year on, I still feel exactly the same.

      Reply
    • Ishita Trivedi

      Anshul, effing brilliant. SO much faith in your platform for turning up gems like these!

      I commented too, and then scrolled down to read others, and I saw yours. Hope for more such incisive articles in the future :)

      Reply
  15. Abdul Wahid Khan

    Salute to the girl who wrote this article. I mean every line of the article explains how strong and brave the girl is that she handled so much with courage and then also wrote this article to inform everyone. Even by the language, it seems very strong. Your help and teachings will always be kept in mind and spread more for awareness. Thanks again!

    Reply
  16. T

    Am a guy and have been through this, not fun at all, I happened to be in a relatively decent position to handle this for my partner but if you are a girl, start with talking to someone who you can really trust, after you are done cursing the guy, tell him to work with you through this!

    More strength to you!!

    Reply
  17. anon

    I’m going through this right now, and I’ve visited two gynecologists till now, a private and the other one at Fortis. Both of them were horribly judgmental and rude! I asked for an ultrasound, and they kept asking me whether my parents knew about this or not. I went for the private gynae after my Fortis experience, hoping she’d be more professional and progressive (I had looked up her website online and it came across as a very pro-choice clinic), but she was neither. I’m definitely opting for the third option- FPAI or I’ll just take the pills. Hopefully I’ll get through this!

    Reply
    • Author

      I hope it worked out for you. If you want to talk, let me know here, I’ll get in touch. Best, the Author.

      Reply
  18. yssubramanyam

    pregnancy is a natural creative mechanism which takes place with out any external help. newly married couple should not fiddle this natural mechanism according to their choice. it is never upto our choice, you can abort, but you can not have as and you desire. planning is totally in your hand, always learn from others, not burning own fingers to learn. article is very educative. i appreciate.

    Reply
  19. Ys Subi

    your open mind is really tremendous. better avoid rather than think of remedy.

    Reply
  20. Shivangi Singh

    This is definitely the area that needs MUCH awareness in our country. People need to know that turning their faces away from the problem thinking they won’t be the “1% exceptional cases” is not the solution.
    The courage shown by the writer in coming up for sharing a bad experience so that no one else has to go through it again is really admirable and much appreciated! Thank-you, Miss Anonymous!

    Reply