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Experts: Pills key to curbing abortions
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Information about contraception should be made widely available to the public to help reduce the frequency of abortions, experts said.

"Though no official figures are available, the abortion rate in China is believed to be high and shows no signs of falling," Wu Shangchun, a researcher with the Institute of Scientific Research of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said recently.

"One of the main reasons for this situation is that people do not know enough about contraception," Wu said.

"We advise women in steady relationships who do not have children to take oral contraception (OC) pills as the first option. Our studies show that less than 2 percent of Chinese women aged from 18 to 44 take the pills," the researcher said.

The Netherlands leads the world in the use of OC pills, with 36 percent of the women aged 15 to 44 taking the medication. France rates second with 30 percent, according to figures provided by Organon, a pharmaceutical company, in a recent report.

As a result, the abortion rates in those countries are quite low - 0.51 percent in The Netherlands and 1.33 percent in France. The rate is 8.4 percent in Japan, where justĀ one percent of women take OC pills, and 2.8 percent in the United States, where 9 percent take them.

However, in China, condoms are widely perceived as the most reliable contraception method, according to a month-long online survey conducted by the women-oriented portal of Sina.com and Organon.

About 65 percent of the survey's 4,281 respondents, of whom 43.3 percent were male, said condoms were the most reliable contraception method, followed by intrauterine devices (IUDs) with 12.1 percent, which Wu said could be a reflection of the influence of the former national family planning policy, which favored those methods.

About 11.5 percent of the respondents said they relied on external ejaculation, while almost 4 percent said they just timed their intercourse to coincide with those times when it was least likely for a woman to become pregnant. Wu said the latter method, commonly known as the safety period, is not safe at all.

Zheng Shurong, a veteran gynecologist with Peking University First Hospital, said OC pills are 10 to 15 times more reliable than condoms, and 1.5 to 4 times more reliable than IUDs.

"It will take time to educate the women in our nation to accept OC pills because they have many deep-rooted misunderstandings.

They worry about the side effects and weight gain, believe the pills could affect their fertility and cause birth defects," Zheng said.

A research report by the World Health Organization indicated that about 10 percent of women face a higher risk of uterine or breast cancer after taking pills. But those at risk can simply stop taking the pills.

(China Daily October 24, 2007)

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