Contraception (also known as birth control or family planning) can be defined as any method used to prevent pregnancy. A person (or couple) who intends to have sex, but does not want to get pregnant can use a contraceptive. Some contraceptive methods, but not all, can also be used to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).
Women and men have the right to decide if and when they want to start having children (or decide to have no children), as well as the person they want to start a family with. Contraceptive use enables many people to have greater control over their bodies, their relationships, and their broader social and economic lives.
In the past, many men expected women to assume the entire responsibility for preventing pregnancy. Nowadays, many men share this responsibility by abstaining from sex without contraception; communicating with his partner before having sex; educating himself about different contraceptive methods; supporting his partner in using her contraceptive method; among others.
For effective control over their own bodies and sexuality, young people need:
Access to quality services and contraceptives
Support from partners and communities
Support of strong national health system
Supportive policies from the national government
It is important to note that though the term ‘family planning’ is widely used, often young people do not see themselves as ‘planning a family’. Thus the term contraception is less stigmatising of young people, especially those who are not married.
Below we show you different contraceptive methods (there are many more) and demonstrates their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. It has a few key messages on how to make one’s chosen method more effective:
Condom: a condom is generally the easiest and most accessible form of contraception used globally. There are male condoms and female condoms which both can be both in health centres, pharmacies, supermarkets and sometimes in public places from a machine. A condom, if used properly and during the whole intercourse, prevents against pregnancy but also against STIs.
Contraceptive pill (or oral contraceptives): Women take the pill daily for 3 weeks in a row to prevent ovulation until the ‘stop week’ when women don’t take the pill and menstruation starts. After 7 days, women start the same cycle again. Pills can be obtained in health centres and pharmacies (usually with a prescription). This method only prevents pregnancy; it doesn’t prevent STIs.
Contraceptive injection (or injectables): A hormonal injection for women to prevent pregnancy over one to three months. They are given in health centres. Just like other hormonal contraceptives, they don’t prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs.
IUD (Intra-uterine device): The IUD (sometimes called coil or loop) is a small t-shaped device, containing either copper or levonorgestrel, placed inside the uterus by a professional health worker in a health centre. It gives protection against pregnancy for 5 to 10 years; however, this method doesn’t prevent STIs.
Subdermal implants are thin tubes (with 1, 2 or 6 rods) which are inserted in a woman’s upper arm by a trained health worker and release hormones. Implants prevent pregnancy for five to six years. They do not prevent STIs.
Emergency contraception (sometimes known as morning after pill) is an oral contraceptive which can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse. The emergency contraceptive pill does not replace regular contraception and should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It does not prevent STIs.
So do you know where you can access these contraceptives? Choose two of these contraceptives above and make a list for both on the advantages and disadvantages of using these two contraceptives. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages, what contraceptives would you adopt?