Nov 2022 1st Edition

Protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy and STIs

Written by Allison Cooper

While all contraceptives aim to decrease the risk of an unwanted pregnancy, only condoms can prevent you from getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as HIV and AIDS.

According to the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness, there are various forms of contraception you can use to help prevent pregnancy, including birth control pills; condoms; female injections; male and female sterilisation; and intrauterine devices (IUDs), which are placed in a woman’s uterus (womb) by a trained healthcare worker.

Types of contraceptives

Condoms: The only birth control method that offers dual protection – from unwanted pregnancy and STIs. They are available for free at public clinics.

Birth control pills: Must be taken at the same time daily. They don’t prevent STIs. They are free at public clinics.

Injection for women: There are two types. One is given once every two months, while the other is given once every three months. They do not prevent STIs.

IUDs: There are two types, copper and hormonal. They do not prevent STIs.

Sterilisation: A short and simple operation. This is a contraceptive method for males and females. Sterilisation does not prevent STIs.

Contraceptive myths

According to the department, while many people already use contraceptives, some people don’t due to myths that surround them. These include:

Myth: IUDs make women infertile (unable to have a baby).

Fact: According to Sister Bongiswa Mazeke from the Michael Mapongwana Community Day Centre, IUDs are effective in preventing pregnancy and last for three to five years. “These contraceptives do not cause infertility. A female can fall pregnant immediately after removing an IUD,” she says.

Myth: Contraception is the woman’s responsibility.

Fact: “Women and men have an equal responsibility to use contraceptives to protect themselves from HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies,” says Maylene Reid, a Professional Nurse in the Overberg District.

Myth: Women can’t fall pregnant while breastfeeding.

Fact: “To prevent pregnancy while breastfeeding, it is best to start another form of contraception soon after delivery,” says Professional Nurse Judiac Ranape, who works in the department’s Southern and Western Districts.

Myth: I can take my morning-after (emergency) pill at any time.

Fact: “The emergency pill must be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy,” says Sister Tandiswa Kami, the Operational Manager at the Gugulethu Midwife Obstetrics Unit.

Access care

Visit your nearest clinic for more information about birth control and how to protect yourself from  STIs.

Information provided by the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness.

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