74,000 women had child-spacing jab with side-effects

74,000 women had child-spacing jab with side-effects

The injectable contraceptive is not given to young girls for fear of bone loss.

An injectable contraceptive with several side-effects, including bone loss, was used by 74,000 women in the state ever since its introduction by the Union Health Ministry in September 2017. 

‘Menstrual irregularities: Light/heavy bleeding or amenorrhoea (absence of periods), slight weight gain, slight loss in bone mass density during the first two years of use’ — these are the side-effects listed on the leaflet of ‘Antara’. The injection is given once in three months in the arm, thigh or buttocks.

Dr Rajkumar N, deputy director (Maternal Health) of the state health department told DH that nearly 74,000 injections have been administered in the state. Surprisingly, he dismissed worries about side-effects, saying the child-spacing contraceptive has beneficial effects instead. “Scanty periods prevent anaemia while heavy bleeding subsides on medication,” he said.

Dr Gayathri Kamath, consultant gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, gave a more informed answer. She said DMPA (depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate, the generic name of the injection) is used in lactating mothers and not recommended beyond a period of one year.

“It is also not given to young girls for fear of bone loss. Cycles getting irregular is a known fact. After the injection is stopped, it takes a long time for the normal menstrual rhythm to come back,” she said.

Dr Gayathri said that since lactating women don’t want periods and it doubles up as a contraceptive, they take it but for not more than a year. “Menstrual cycles go for a toss... they may bleed in little amounts. Periods cannot be delayed for any reason. It can take three months to one year to get back to normal,” she warned.

She said the contraceptive is not popular in India as women want to have control over their menstrual cycle. “Suppose somebody takes three injections for birth spacing. It’s not possible to predict when their normal cycle will be back. So the women get hassled and keep contacting us,” she said.

Dr Geetha Shivamurthy, Professor, Gynaecology, Vani Vilas Hospital, said the injection is mostly used for spacing soon after delivery. “This is recommended for women who cannot withstand Copper-T devices in their uterus. We inform them of the advantages and disadvantages and allow them to choose,” she said.   

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