Monday, April 25, 2011

A quick, premature end

As dating becomes prevalent, one side-effect is unwanted pregnancies. Gynaecologists talk about their experiences

By Shevlin Sebastian

It is a familiar sight for Dr. Anna Kurien (name changed), senior consultant gynaecologist at a private hospital in Kochi. The girl is in her early twenties and is accompanied by her parents.

“She is usually three or four months pregnant,” says Anna. “It is only then that she realises that she is pregnant and comes for a MTP (medical termination of pregnancy).”

Some come up with bizarre explanations on how they got pregnant. “One girl told me, 'I have no idea how the 'contact' took place. I was sleeping and it happened.” Another said, “I did not know I was doing sex with the boy.” One straight-talking woman said, “I did not love the boy, but I wanted to have some fun.” Most of the time, the girls will insist that they had sex only once, before getting pregnant.

For the parents, who look worried and tense, they pray that there are no complications during the MTP, and the operation is successful. “They are scared that society will come to know,” says Anna. “If it becomes a scandal it will spoil their daughter's chance to get married.”

So, their immediate priority, following the abortion, is to find a boy and secure an arranged marriage.

Most of the girls come from middle-class families and hold jobs as receptionists, clerks and desktop operators. They stay in hostels in and around Kochi, while their parents and siblings stay in places like Kottayam and Kozhikode.

“They are tasting freedom for the first time,” says Anna. “So, they tend to lose control. Things happen in the heat of the moment.”

Anna, who has been doing abortions for 15 years says that she no longer gets teenagers or college students as patients. “They are more aware now,” she says. “They know about contraceptive pills and condoms and have learned to take the necessary precautions.”

Meanwhile, Dr. V. Girija, consultant gynaecologist at the General Hospital, always checks whether she is following the law.

“I can only do a MTP, if the pregnancy is within 20 weeks,” she says. Like Anna, Girija is taken aback by some of the excuses given by the girls.

“Most say they have no idea how they got pregnant,” she says. “Some insist they are married and are accompanied by the 'husband'. I don't try to probe too much. Over the years, I have discovered that the patients rarely give the correct information about what took place.”

Before the operation, the girls have differing reactions. “Some look tense or fearful, while a few look calm,” says Girija. “Earlier, teenagers would come but now I don't see them any more. It may be probably because of sex education classes they have become knowledgeable, and take the necessary safety measures.”

There are many advertisements on television for condoms and contraceptive pills. Copper-T, an intrauterine device, is also popular. “However, most of the time, girls rarely come to public hospitals for an MTP, because there is always the risk that they would be spotted by somebody,” says Girija. “So they go to small nursing homes.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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