'Lockdown likely to lead to big spurt in unwanted pregnancies, abortions'

The lockdown may result in an additional 2.38 million unintended pregnancies, 679,864 childbirths, 1.45 million abortions,  said assessment by the Foundation of Reproductive Health Service India.
Representational image
Representational image

NEW DELHI: The Covid-19 lockdown and lack of access to family planning methods are set to reduce the use of contraceptions across the country by 15-23 per cent, as per an assessment by the country’s largest provider of clinical family planning services in the private sector.

This is likely to result in an additional 2.38 million unintended pregnancies, 679,864 childbirths, 1.45 million abortions, including 834,042 unsafe abortions and 1,743 maternal deaths, said the analysis.

The assessment by the Foundation of Reproductive Health Services India showed that in the most likely scenario, where clinical family planning services operate at full capacity by September 2020 and commercial sales of over the counter-contraceptives are able to resume in a phased manner by the third week of May, it is estimated that 25.6 million couples would have not been able to access contraception services during the period of the lockdown and weeks leading up to complete normalcy.

In this scenario, there would be a loss of 6.9 lakh sterilization services, 9.7 lakh intra-uterine devices, 5.8 lakh doses of injectible contraceptives, 23.08 million cycles of oral contraceptive pills, 9.2 lakh emergency contraceptive pills and 405.96 million condoms, it has been estimated.

The assessment is based on sources such as Health Management Information System of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, social marketing statistics, and retail audit data to arrive at the potential loss of sales and services in 2020 and the resultant impact on health indicators.

In 2019, as per the HMIS, 35 lakh sterilizations, 57 lakh intrauterine catheter devices, 18 lakh injectable contraceptive services were provided by the public sector.

Public health facilities also distributed 4.1 crore cycles of oral contraceptive pills, 25 lakh emergency contraceptive pills, and 32.2 crore condoms. In addition, the commercial market sold 220 crore condoms, 11.2 crore cycles of OCPs, 36 lac ECPs, 12 lac doses of ICs, and 8 lac IUCDs.

During the lockdown period, as per the Centre’s advisory, public facilities have suspended the provision of sterilizations and IUCDs till further notice. Curbs on movement have made access to over the counter contraceptives, condoms, OCPs and ECPs difficult.

“The number of live births may be actually higher since access to abortion services have also been impacted during the lockdown period. Many women, who ended up with an unintended pregnancy, may be forced to carry their pregnancy to term since they may not have been able to access abortion care” said VS Chandrashekar, CEO, FRHSI.

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