Female sterilization has been the dominant contraceptive method in India since the late 1970s; however, evidence on sterilization regret—including on trends and on changes in correlates—is limited.
Data from the 1992–1993, 2005–2006 and 2015–2016 rounds of the Indian National Family Health Survey were used to examine trends in sterilization regret among ever-married women aged 15–49. Multivariable binary logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the correlates of sterilization regret in 2005–2006 and 2015–2016, and multivariate decomposition was used to estimate the contribution of correlates to the change in sterilization regret between surveys.
Sterilization regret in India increased by 2.3 percentage points, from 4.6% in 2005–2006 to 6.9% in 2015–2016. Most variables associated with regret in 2005–2006 remained so in 2015–2016: For example, women who lost a child after sterilization were more likely than those who had not experienced child loss to express regret (odds ratios, 2.8 in 2005–2006 and 1.9 in 2015–2016). Other associations were significant only in 2015–2016: For example, women informed that they would not be able to have children after sterilization had elevated odds of expressing regret (1.4). Changes in the composition of women by parity and by being informed of not being able to have children after sterilization each contributed 5–6% of the increase in sterilization regret between surveys.
Efforts to increase use of reversible contraceptive methods and to reduce infant and child mortality may help reduce rising sterilization regret in India.
Abhishek Singh is associate professor, Department of Public Health and Mortality Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, India.