Contraception: six myths and facts you need to know

Published Sep 27, 2022


Cape Town - Contraceptives give women the freedom and peace of mind to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and there are many contraceptive options available.

“Access to contraceptives allows you to decide if, when and how to start your family, giving you control over your reproductive health, wellness and future. Good health, in turn, allows you to live your life to the fullest.

“Today, many people use contraceptives and can easily access them for free at Western Cape Government Health clinics. However, there are still myths and misconceptions about contraceptive methods.

“Some people may not use it due to fears of possible side effects and negative beliefs about contraception,” the Western Cape health department said.

On Monday, World Contraceptive Day was observed, and healthcare workers are busting myths with the hopes of empowering members of the public.

Here are six common contraceptive myths and the facts from healthcare workers:

The contraceptive pill/birth control is effective immediately after taking it.

Truth: It’s important to take your birth control as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Sister Deborah Stander, who works at the Ravensmead Community Day Centre, emphasises the importance of taking the contraceptive pill the right way.

She also counsels young men and women on the use of contraceptives.

“For pregnancy prevention, the contraceptive pill needs to be taken every day at the same time. For the suitable family planning method for you, please contact your nearest clinic,” Stander said.

Contraceptives like intrauterine devices (UIDs) are responsible for infertility.

Truth: The UID, also known as a loop, is a small device shaped like a ‘T’ that fits inside the uterus.

There are two types of UIDs, copper and hormonal, which prevent sperm from reaching the egg.

According to Sister Bongiswa Mazeka from the Michael Mapongwana Community Day Centre, this cannot cause infertility.

She said contraceptives like UIDs are extremely effective and last for three to five years.

“These contraceptives do not cause infertility. A female can fall pregnant immediately after removing an IUD. After inserting the IUD, it is important for female clients to come for two check-ups, one at six weeks and another after a year,” Mazeka said.

Contraception is a women’s responsibility.

Truth: According to a professional nurse in the Overberg District, Maylene Reid, some women may be afraid to speak to their partners about contraceptive methods.

“Women are often scared to speak to their partners about contraceptives, but women and men have an equal responsibility to use contraceptives to protect themselves from HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

“If you are male, speak to your healthcare provider about medical male circumcision, vasectomies and the use of condoms to protect yourself and your partner,” Reid said.

When you’re on the pill, you don’t need to use other forms of protection when having intercourse.

Truth: A condom needs to be used every time you have sex to protect yourself from STIs, as the pill cannot prevent you from contracting STIs.

Sister Roseanne Love, a nurse in the Matzikama sub-district on the West Coast, said double protection is important.

“Double the protection means double the safety against STIs, including HIV. We encourage dual protection – using condoms while using other contraceptives, like the pill, too – to ensure good reproductive health for you and your partner,” Love said.

One cannot fall pregnant while breastfeeding.

Truth: It is possible to fall pregnant while breastfeeding.

A professional nurse who works in the southern and western district, Sister Judiac Ranape, said the good news for those breastfeeding is that you can protect yourself from an unplanned pregnancy.

“When breastfeeding exclusively, it is less likely for a woman to ovulate until she starts to wean the baby from the breast. When breastfeeding is supplemented with formula or solids, even when the period has not returned yet, and there is no contraceptive protection, the woman can fall pregnant.

“To prevent pregnancy while breastfeeding, it is best to start another form of contraception soon after delivery, even if you are breastfeeding,” Ranape explained.

The morning after pill be taken at any time

Truth: It is important to take the morning after pill as advised by your healthcare provider.

Operational manager at Gugulethu MOU, Sister Tandiswa Kami, said the morning after pill can prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“Prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies by using the emergency contraceptive knowns as the ‘morning after pill’. Remember to take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sexual intercourse. Come and get yours for free at our primary health care (clinic) facilities. Ask one of your healthcare providers where to access the morning after contraceptive,” Kami said.

There are different types of contraceptives and these include:

  • Oral contraceptives - commonly known as ‘the pill’. This must be taken daily and is free of charge at government clinics and hospitals.
  • Contraceptive injection for women - there are two types: Nur-Isterate, which is given every two months and Depo Provera or Petogen (DMPA) which is given every three months.
  • UID - this is inserted into a uterus by a specially trained healthcare worker.
  • Condoms - are available free of charge at clinics, female condoms are available at designated clinics.
  • Sterilisation - is a shot and simple operation but this is a permanent contraceptive method for men and women. Anyone 18 years and older may be sterilised at their request. Bookings can be made at the local clinic.

It is important to note that these contraceptive methods do not prevent STIs.

The health department has noted that with all contraceptive methods, there is a small risk of failure.

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