LIFESTYLE

How Do I Know Which Birth Control Method Is Best For Me?

Because these side-effects are killing me.

01/11/2017 14:23 SAST | Updated 01/11/2017 14:23 SAST
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Birth-control pills.

More than half of the country's women are using some form of contraceptive, according to Stats SA.

But taking charge of our fertility does not come without consequences for our health.

While no two women are the same, common side-effects of some birth control methods include nausea, weight gain, mood changes, headaches, missed periods and decreased libido.

Implanon, a contraceptive implant introduced by the health department in 2014, made headlines for its serious side-effects in some women -- which included severe bleeding over a lengthy period of time, fatigue and dramatic changes in weight.

This "fit-and-forget" method is reportedly used by only seven percent of women. Poor training and targeting, as well as the inadequate management of side effects, have plagued Implanon, reported Times Live.

So, how do I know which birth control method is best for me?

"Each woman is different," said Marti Dewrance, a nurse at Reproductive Choices Clinic, and adds that it might take some trial and error to figure out the right fit.

She noted that factors such as a woman's age, weight, whether she smokes or not, the frequency of sexual activity, and past medical conditions may all influence the suitability of any specific birth control method.

"If you are over 35 and smoke, we usually advise that you put in a loop and not use the pill. This is because nicotine and pills (which are hormonal in nature) can increase your chances of a stroke."

"So it all depends on the specific person."

She cautioned against "conventional wisdom" that is not medically based. "Don't just trust what your mother or friend says, because their bodies are different from yours. What works for them may not work for you."

Dewrance emphatically advised that women consult health care professionals before embarking on birth control methods.

"And if you've been using the pill and you bleed all the time, see your doctor. Birth control methods should never threaten your health."

Three common birth control methods in South Africa

1. The pill

There are different types, but need to be taken every day to be effective. They contain hormones that prevent ovulation.

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2. The injection

Contraceptives are injected via the arm every two to three months to block ovulation.

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3. Intra-uterine devices (IUDs)

The T-shaped device is inserted into a woman's uterus by a health care professional. The Mirena, for example, can last for up to five years.

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4. The patch

Once a week for three weeks you can attach the patch to your upper arm, stomach or butt, and it releases anti-ovulation hormones. It needs to be completely attached to work.

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5. The ring

It has to be inserted every month into your lady parts, the same way you do a tampon, where it releases hormones like those found in the pill.

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Dewrance emphasised, however, that no method is 100 perfect foolproof, and that only condoms offer dual protection from pregnancy and disease.