Contraceptives: What you need to know

Contraceptives are a convenient birth control method which prevents pregnancy. But are they safe to use? In this article, we'll look at all the ins and outs of contraceptives.

How do contraceptives work?

Contraceptives can contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin hormones or consist of only progestin. The ones made from a combination of estrogen and progestin prevent pregnancy by stopping the release of hormones that develop the egg and lining of the uterus. Meanwhile, progestin-only contraceptives make the mucus that surrounds the egg more difficult for sperm to penetrate. In some women, it even prevents ovulation (the release of the egg) from taking place.

How effective are contraceptives?

Although contraceptives are highly successful in preventing pregnancy as long as you use them as prescribed, they don't protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To efficiently protect yourself against STDs, you might want to also use a second contraceptive, such as a condom.

What benefits are there to using contraceptives?

There are many benefits to using contraceptives. Some benefits include:

  • Helps regulate your menstrual cycle, which can be particularly helpful if you have irregular or heavy periods
  • They are reversible
  • They can be used to treat skin problems, such as acne.

Are contraceptives safe to use?

Even though contraceptives are generally very safe to use, there are some exceptions. Speak to your doctor to find out what options you have in terms of contraception.

Types of contraceptives

There are many types of contraceptives. These include, among others:

  • Oral contraceptives: also known as "the pill", these need to be taken as prescribed.
  • Skin patches: a weekly plaster-like device that releases hormones through the skin.
  • Etonogestrel implant: a small pipe that is inserted under the skin of your upper arm. This offers you protection against pregnancy for three years.
  • Removable contraceptive vaginal ring: the ring can be inserted at home and is about the size of a hair tie.
  • Progestin injection: effective for three months, the shot uses progestin.
  • IUD (intrauterine device): inserted into the cervix, the IUD is a hormone-free copper device. It can work between 3 and 12 years.
  • Spermicide gel: this option can be inserted before sex.

There are also natural birth control methods, such as ovulation test kits and the rhythm method, as well as surgical sterilisation methods that include tubal ligation and vasectomy.

Because your lifestyle and body changes over time, you can change between birth control methods. Speak to your doctor about what option would suit you best and remember to ask any questions you might have.

How does my medical scheme pay for my contraceptives?

The SAB Medical Aid Comprehensive Plan covers contraceptives from your day-to-day benefits, which is further limited to R2 302 per year per female. This means that you can't claim more than R2 302 in a year for contraceptives from your day-to-day benefits.

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