At least 65% of women in South Africa are on some form of contraception.
Contraceptives pills are used for various reasons, from planning a family to balancing hormones and even in the treatment of acne-related conditions.

While the benefits of contraceptives are many and varied, myths about them have cast a negative light on the drugs in recent years.

Some people believe that the use of contraceptive pills may lead to infertility if used over a long period, while others think birth control pills may result in weight gain.

There’s also the false belief that some oral medications may prevent sexually transmitted infections.

In South Africa, it’s estimated that around 65% of women are on some form of contraception.

Tina Visser from pharmaceutical group Bayer said there are women who still think that using contraception is “unnatural”.

“Most women still think if you take them for long period it may cause infertility. While others think that it’s not safe and often wonder what happens to the blood when you don’t get your period,” said Visser.

But are contraceptives safe?

“Oral contraceptives have been around for about 50 years. They’ve undergone many improvements, including the decrease of certain hormones in some birth control pills. They continue to improve every day,” Visser said.

With advances in medical research and development, contraceptives have improved considerably over the years.

Women now have a much wider choice, including implants, intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and injections.

However, the use of birth control pills continues to garner controversy.

Some studies suggest they increase the risk of cancers, such as breast cancer.

A study conducted in 2017 by the University of Michigan revealed that some commonly prescribed birth control pills may quadruple levels of synthetic oestrogen and progesterone hormones, which may result in breast cancer.

Visser said there was strong evidence that showed oral contraceptives do not cause ovarian cancer, but have actually proven to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.

According to an international survey by Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (Society for Consumer Research) which surveyed 208 million pregnancies around the world, 41% were found to be unplanned pregnancies, with nearly half of these unplanned pregnancies ending up in abortion.

An estimated 33 million unintended pregnancies each year were a result of contraceptive failure or incorrect use.