Two local women share their experience with contraceptives - plus how you can choose the right one for you

Woman holding contraceptives.
Woman holding contraceptives.
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According to a 2019 study published in the Reproductive Health journal, the contraceptive prevalence rate is 64,6% in South Africa. For years many people in SA didn’t have access to contraceptives. But growing accessibility grants a wider range of options, either short-term – such as the pill, a patch or condoms – or long-term, like injections, implants or an IUD loop.

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But contraceptives are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each person reacts differently and have different side-effects.

Ambeswa Mgedlana of Gugulethu in Cape Town tells DRUM she had to use contraceptives following a miscarriage. “I had a miscarriage in July 2018 and the nurses advised I use the IUD loop. I had it inserted but towards the end of the month it fell out while I was urinating.

“I’ve had a really traumatic back-and-forth experience with contraceptives,” Ambeswa shares. “I first used the three-month injection and for the first few months, I had a really heavy flow. My period would last for two weeks or sometimes more. Added to this, I gained a lot of weight and my face would be swollen at times. I used it continuously for one year and stopped so that I could try to find an alternative.”

Read more | Not a myth – contraceptives can cause weight gain

“I then switched to the implant, which proved to be a really bad decision. With the implant came extreme mood swings that heightened my anxiety for even the smallest things. My skin started breaking out and I experienced acne as well. Added to this, my body was really sore. A simple touch to my thigh would leave a mark and if someone bumped into me, I’d experience pain for a long time.

“The most drastic change was my period. It used to be heavy and would go on for three months at a time. And each time I went to the clinic, the nurses would say it would stop 'soon’. I suffered from migraines and backache – I tried every pain pill but nothing helped until I removed the implant,” she says.

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Newie Nkhahle of Cape Town shares that she used the three-month injection for three years. “I was using the three-month injection for quite a number of years and the only side effect I experienced was an increased appetite and weight gain. The first two years were fine but it was in the third year that I experienced some changes.

“I’m currently not using any contraceptives. I feel like I need to give my body a break from all of that for a bit. I’m trying other methods such as the use of protection and tracking my period and ovulation dates so that I’m still staying safe,” she says.

So what is the best contraceptive method for you?

Dr Mala Panday, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, notes that each method has indications and contraindications. “While one method might be safe for you, another might not be as ideal. Therefore, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional who will weigh up the risks and benefits of the different methods before recommending a contraceptive.”