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Clearing The Air About The Morning After-Pill: It’s Contraception, Not Abortion!

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By CREA and YKA: 

The morning after unprotected sex can be a worrying time for women, what with TV ads going on about ‘once is all it takes’. For accidental pregnancies, that is.

Image credit: Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan of Oh Joy Sex Toy

Despite the fact that each day, more than a 100 million Indian women consume an emergency contraceptive (EC) pill, most don’t know what it exactly is or how it really works.

In a country where sex itself is such a big deal, one can only imagine the hullabaloo around contraception, especially when discussed outside the context of marriage. Emergency contraceptive pills, or the morning after pills entered the Indian market in the early 2000s, became widely popular among the urban educated women in India as a way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. At the same time it gained an infamous reputation, often being dubbed as the “abortion pill“.

But that’s where they went wrong. Taking an after-pill is nowhere close to getting an abortion. It is also not the same as an abortion pill. Not only is it just a handy emergency fix, it is in fact a good way to avoid a possibly unwanted situation for many women. The misconceptions associated with this tiny pill thus need setting right once and for all:

1. Emergency Contraceptive Pills Are The Same As Abortion Pills

FALSE. Contrary to what many people think, an EC pill in no way causes an abortion. It basically functions in two ways. If ovulation has not occurred, then the pill delays ovulation further so that the sperm cannot fuse with the egg to fertilise it. If ovulation has already occurred, then the pill prevents the fertilised egg (if formed) from sticking to the uterus wall. No foetus, therefore no abortion. If pregnancy has already taken place, then the pill will have no effect on the mother or the foetus, which is why it is advised that the pill be taken as soon as possible after intercourse, preferably within 72 hours (although, it can be effective up to 5 days).

2. Regular Use Of Emergency Contraceptives Leads To Infertility

Nope! Regular use of the EC pill does not cause infertility and has no negative effects in the long run. That being said, increased usage can possibly disrupt your normal menstrual cycle – it is, after all, delaying ovulation. It can also cause nausea, headaches, fatigue and dizziness as short term side-effects. You can use ECs more than once in a single cycle, though experts do not recommend that you do so. It is always advisable to use other forms of contraceptives, as much as possible.

3. The Morning After Pill Is Hard To Obtain And Requires A Prescription

Wrong. EC pills are easily available at local pharmacies, hospitals and health centres, and do not require any prescription for purchase. However, in case you have any doubts, or face any extreme reaction, it is always better to seek professional opinion.

4. The Morning After Pill Is The Only Emergency Contraceptive Available

Pills are not the only emergency contraceptive option available to you. You can also try copper bearing intrauterine devices (IUDs), which also prevent pregnancy. These devices can be inserted only by a qualified nurse or doctor, but are over 99% effective if inserted within 5 days of unprotected intercourse. Copper-bearing IUDs, once inserted, can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years, eliminating the need to worry about taking an after-pill every time after unprotected sex.

5. Emergency Contraceptives Can Be Used As a Regular And Solitary Form Of Contraception

As mentioned earlier, morning after pills are only meant to be used as an emergency option, if your usual contraceptive fails or you have unprotected sex. While EC pills are highly effective in preventing pregnancies, they do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. A condom is the only way to avoid STDs.

If condom ads made you uncomfortable when they suddenly came up on TV during a family lunch, chances are that the after-pill ad gave those around you an even more stoic expression. Awkward silences notwithstanding, knowledge about contraception is important for one’s sexual health, and clichéd as it might be – knowledge is power, folks!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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