Choosing the right birth control as an adult is such an important decision. With countless types of contraception available today, it’s easy to think that the conversation surrounding birth control has always been the same.
However, this could not be further from the truth. In the past, discussing birth control was a taboo topic, and even talking about it openly was considered outr and frowned upon.
Let’s explore some of the challenges of discussing birth control in the past. Stigma: conservative, sacrilege
Do you know that in the past, discussing birth control was considered to be “conservative” thinking?
While people often associate current contraception preferences with progressive-thinking individuals, it is crucial to note that in previous generations, sexual liberation was far from the norm. The idea of planning a family, spacing children, or even preventing altogether seemed like a far-fetched dream.
Instead, many individuals were preoccupied with the idea that children were miracles and gifts from God, so preventing pregnancies or interfering with a real-life “procreation” could be seen as a sacrilege or interference with God’s work.
Shyness: shy, uncomfortable, unlearn
Can you imagine discussing birth control with your grandparents and great-grandparents a few decades ago?
The topic was almost taboo, leaving young people to their own devices in figuring out how to prevent pregnancies. It was considered inappropriate to even broach the subject of the sex life of ones grandparents.
It became a collective discomfort to discuss one’s fertility, and as such, many people chose to learn from experience alone rather than ask elders, parents, or health professionals. Miseducation: ignorance, reproductive rights, health, family planning
For many years, awareness of reproductive health was limited, especially for women who were told that their primary purpose was to reproduce.
Unknowingly, this led to several issues, ranging from unwanted pregnancies to general ignorance regarding basic reproductive health. The concept of family planning, which is now so commonplace, was something that was completely shrouded in mystery in many communities.
Traditional beliefs: children are blessings, duty, financial support
Children were often seen as a blessing, and as such, many individuals wanted to have as many children as possible. The traditional belief was that children needed to be born regardless of possible financial or personal constraints since they represented a familial duty as well.
This view was predominant for much of the 20th century, especially in cultures that placed great importance on large families. While children are indeed blessings, it is crucial to note that in many societies today, the emphasis has turned towards ensuring they are born into much-improved socioeconomic conditions.
Now let’s talk about how our grandparents may have approached birth control. While they may not have had the vast array of options available today, some of the methods used to restrict pregnancy were so intriguing and amusing.
Types of contraception: pull-out method, separate lovebirds, abstinence, douching, rhythm method, papaya, natural herbs and foods, breastfeeding, IUD, vasectomy, tubal ligation, condoms, oral contraceptive pill.
When it comes to different methods of contraception, our grandparents had a handful of options to choose from, depending on their knowledge and imagination.
For instance, one commonly used method was the “pull-out method,” which involved men withdrawing before ejaculation to prevent pregnancy. Although this method was not foolproof, it could still reduce the chances of conception.
Another approach was called “separate lovebirds,” where partners were not allowed to sleep in the same bed to prevent sexual activity. For individuals who wanted complete abstinence, there were options such as knotted rabbit skin or “abstinence belts,” which acted as a physical barrier to prevent sexual activity.
Additionally, some women used douching methods to reduce the chances of pregnancy. Others resorted to eating certain foods such as papaya and taking natural herbs to override fertility.
Women who had just given birth could also rely on breastfeeding as a method of contraception.
For those seeking more permanent solutions, surgical methods like tubal ligation (for women) and vasectomy (for men) were available, yet they still had skyrocketing rates of medical complications, providing less invasive alternatives.
These methods included intrauterine devices (IUDs), condoms, and oral contraceptive pills. Knowing that nearly all the methods then were either partially or not effective, women often received a crash-course on the rhythm method, a periodic abstinence method of tracking the menstrual cycle to determine the less fertile or infertile days to engage in sexual activity.
Effectiveness: not fully effective, partially effective, some are foolproof
It’s important to note that not all of these methods were fool-proof, and some may not have been effective at all. Even with the most reliable techniques, there was always a chance of failure.
However, with medical advances, we now have several options to choose from, with some being almost entirely effective.
In conclusion, while the conversation surrounding birth control has continued to advance, the past challenges of discussing this topic were significant. While our grandparents and great-grandparents had more limited options to choose from by today’s standards, they too had creative ways of approaching family planning and reproduction.
Today, the focus is on ensuring that individuals can make an informed choice, better informed than on the diversity of options now available. As with most matters of health, appropriate education and access to resources empower individuals in making relevant decisions.
Coercive history of birth control in India
Birth control is central to family planning, and in India’s case, in pursuit of population control and family welfare programs, the conversation around it has taken on different forms over the years. Some of these forms have explicitly or implicitly involved coercive means, resulting in significant population control scandals.
Coercive birth control in India has largely manifested in two ways, forced sterilization and gender inequality. Forced sterilization: mass sterilization, Emergency, underprivileged
One of the most recent and significant instances of forced sterilization in India was during the country’s so-called Emergency period (1975-1977).
During this period, an estimated eight to ten million individuals, largely from low-income households, were subjected to forced sterilization. The policy was designed to curb population growth, and instead of providing sexual education and various contraceptives, India’s government led what was called the family planning program.
Today, decades later, forced sterilization remains an embarrassing part of India’s family planning legacy. In many instances where mass sterilizations have ended in fatalities or compromised the health of underprivileged groups, they often cut across class and caste to affect the poor and underprivileged.
While India is the largest democracy in the world, cases of mass sterilization are reminiscent of times past, where individual bodily autonomy was sacrificed at the altar of state-sponsored population control. Gender inequality: burden on women, female sterilization
Coerced birth control has also affected women more than men.
India, like many other countries, has tended to view overpopulation and its attendant issues as predominantly the burden of women, with policies that reflect this. One of the most obvious manifestations of this is female sterilization, which is currently the most widely used contraceptive method in India.
In 2018, around 40% of women of reproductive age in India had either undergone sterilization or were using it as a form of contraception. Although it can be an effective form of birth control, coerced female sterilization remains a significant challenge to female autonomy.
Women who undergo sterilization can face stigma for “undergoing the knife,” and in many instances, do not fully grasp the risks and long-term effects. It has also led women to rely on other methods like the emergency pill, which is not always readily available in India.
Shift towards male contraception
To move away from the coercive history of birth control in India, there ought to be a shift towards male contraception actively. Male contraception is still relatively new, and while it is not as widely available as female contraception, it marks a significant shift towards the responsibility of family planning.
Responsibility: family planning, accountability
Male contraception provides another method for family planning that places more responsibility on men to take an active role in ensuring reproductive health. It reduces the burden of family planning on women, who have traditionally undertaken more of the responsibility.
A move towards male contraception attempts to ensure that family planning measures are not only meant for women alone, but for the entire family. Male contraceptive: male pill, safe sex
There are several types of male contraception methods available, including male pills, injections, and condoms.
Male pills are still in the development stages, but when implemented, it presents a new method that could be more effective than female pills. Condoms, on the other hand, have long been in use and are an accessible form of contraception for men.
The use of condoms also helps promote safer sex, preventing sexually transmitted diseases in addition to unwanted pregnancies. In conclusion, discussions surrounding birth control have been mired in controversies, particularly in India, where past interventions have often been coercive.
In shifting towards male contraception, the conversation surrounding family planning can become a shared responsibility between partners, as opposed to solely the burden of women. However, there should be a move towards male contraception without placing all the responsibility on men, just as it should not be solely on women.
The call to action must be a synergy among partners, one that recognizes the importance of bodily autonomy, access to information, and inclusivity.
Human development as contraception
Population growth is a concern globally, and often efforts to curb it are fraught with controversies. Coercive measures of contraception have left horrible scars in India’s history with population control programs, and in other areas, it has been marred by tropes of religion, ideology, and myths.
However, contrary to popular belief, development alone can be a potent contraceptive. Factors that control birth rate: education, income, awareness, reproductive rights, agency
Several factors influence population growth, and in this section, we will explore how education, income, reproductive rights, awareness, and agency play vital roles in decreasing birth rates.
Education is often cited as a key factor that drives down birth rates. As education levels rise, particularly for women, it becomes a catalyst for the decline in birth rates.
This is because education leads to greater awareness of family planning methods, more career opportunities, and greater economic and social mobility, which is often associated with smaller family sizes.
Educational empowerment allows women to define their reproductive rights and exercise agency over their lives.
It increases access to information on the benefits and drawbacks of various methods of contraception.
It is also essential to consider the role of income in the conversation of population growth. Countries with low-income tend to have higher birth rates, and this is often so as children are perceived as additional sources of family income.
However, increased wealth that comes with development tends to shift the focus of childbearing from an economic necessity to a desire for higher quality of life. A rise in economic status contributes to greater access to medical care, housing, and an array of family planning options.
Income is also an essential factor in ensuring access to birth control measures that often come at a cost that’s sometimes out of reach for people living at or below the poverty line.
Awareness plays an essential role in reducing the birth rate as many people are not fully aware of reproductive health issues, sexual health rights, and options available to them. With increased awareness, individuals can make informed decisions about their bodies, leading to a conscious reduction in birthrates.
These community-level awareness programs are essential in challenging the myths and misinformation surrounding family planning choices, the impact of overpopulation and possible economic prosperity that ties into having small families. These programs ensure that individuals understand the importance of contraception for family planning decisions and the benefits of using it.
Reproductive rights and access to healthcare that enables access to contraception are crucial in tackling population growth. Reproductive rights, as defined by the World Health Organization, “include the right to decide on the number of children and spacing and timing between them, to access to information and services for sexual and reproductive health, including contraception, and to receive safe abortion services where lawful.”
Access to contraception
Finally, access to contraception and other family planning methods are essential in controlling population growth. Family planning encompasses a wide variety of offerings, including condoms, pills, and emergency contraceptive options.
In addition to the availability of contraception, it is also imperative that individuals are informed about the options available, and they make informed decisions on what best suits their lifestyle, needs, and health status. In conclusion, while it is important to acknowledge the political, economic, and social factors that contribute to population growth, the role of human development in reducing birth rates cannot be overstated.
Education, income, reproductive rights, awareness, and access to contraception are all essential to ensure a conscious reduction of birth rates. It should be a call to action for governments and individuals to adopt policies that promote inclusive progress, protect human rights, and provide communities with the tools, information, and education necessary for them to make informed decisions about their lives.
In conclusion, the conversations surrounding birth control have evolved significantly over the years, moving from a taboo topic to a widely-discussed issue that is integral to family planning. In many countries, however, the pursuit of population control through coercive means has left deep scars.
Development alone presents vast potential for stabilizing population growth.
Education, income, reproductive rights, awareness, and access to contraception are central to achieving a conscious reduction in birth rates.
Moving forward, it is crucial for governments and individuals alike to adopt progressive policies that emphasize human development, protect reproductive rights, and promote equitable access to resources, information, and education. By taking an inclusive, non-coercive stance, it is possible to create a future where individuals can make informed decisions about their families and lead fulfilling lives while remaining aware of the impact of their choices on their communities and the world.