Your Contraception Options
By Dr Sindi van Zyl
Contraception is a method of preventing pregnancy. It is also known as family planning or birth control. Pregnancy occurs when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg (ovum). Contraception works by preventing fertilization from happening.
It is not always easy to choose a method of contraception because there are quite a few options out there. The decision should be made with one principle in mind – DUAL CONTRACEPTION. This means that even if you choose to use hormonal contraception you should always back that up with barrier contraception – condoms.
Works by releasing artificial hormones into the body. These hormones are very similar to oestrogen and progesterone which women release naturally from their ovaries. The release of these artificial hormones prevents pregnancy from taking place by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries or by making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.
Combined oral contraception “The Pill”
The Pill consists of 28 tablets in total. 21 of these tablets contain hormones and 7 of these tablets are hormone-free. The 7 tablets allow for menstruation to take place. The Pill is a popular choice for many women but you do need to remember to take it every single day. You also need to take extra precaution when you are on antibiotics and certain medication. The Pill can only be started if you have been assessed by a doctor or nurse because there are certain people that must not use it.
The injection works on the same principles as the Pill – prevention of the release of an egg or blocking sperm. There are two types of injections: Depo Provera which is given every 12 weeks and Nur-Isterate which is given every 8 weeks. Again you need to be assessed by a doctor or nurse before you can start the injection. This is to make sure you do not have any have any medical conditions that will exclude you from being able to use it.
The implant – such as Implanon - is fairly new to South Africa but is gaining in popularity. The implant is inserted underneath the skin of the upper arm. The rods contain hormones and these are released into the body – again working by preventing the release of an egg or blocking sperm. The nice thing about the implant is that it lasts for three years. It is inserted and removed by your doctor.
The intrauterine device IUD
The intrauterine device is also gaining popularity again especially Mirena. It is inserted into the uterus by your doctor and works by preventing the sperm and egg from coming together. The IUD is preferable for older women because it can be kept in for 5 years or longer.
This is a summary of the commonest forms of hormonal contraception on offer in South Africa. Do your research and make your decision based on what will work best for you.
Remember - DUAL CONTRACEPTION is key.
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