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Birth Control Basics: Condoms, The Pill & Patch
Birth Control Basics: Condoms, The Pill & Patch
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Birth Control Basics: Condoms, The Pill & Patch

Once you start to go through puberty, it’s possible to become pregnant or make someone pregnant, which is why it’s important to be familiar with different ways to prevent pregnancy.  Contraception is either medication, a medical device or a barrier like a condom that keep a sperm and an egg from uniting. Some contraceptives, like the Pill, the Patch and the Injection, are medicines that keep the ovary from releasing an egg or ovum and need to be taken daily or every few months. Others are long acting methods like the implant or the IUD (also called “the loop”) which can be fitted by a nurse or doctor for between 3 and 10 years of protection from pregnancy depending on the method.  Condoms, called barrier methods, keep sperm from getting inside the uterus to find an egg.

Only condoms prevent the spread of HIV and STIs so it is important to use both when having sex and to be able to talk openly and honestly with partners about how you will protect yourselves from pregnancy and infections and viruses.

FAQs

Can someone my age really get pregnant or get someone pregnant?

There are a lot of myths out there about if, how and when someone can or can’t get pregnant. The truth is, once you start to go through puberty, it’s possible to get pregnant or get someone pregnant. That’s why it’s so important to know how pregnancy happens and how to prevent it if you or your partner are not ready to be parents.

Understanding contraception options and the importance of using condoms and making sure there is consent and respect from both partners is key when making a decision about having sex.

Contraception, is a medication, a medical device or a barrier like a condom to keep a sperm and an egg from uniting. Some contraceptive methods, like hormonal methods, work to keep the ovary from releasing an egg or ovum, while others help create a barrier at the opening of the cervix to keep sperm from getting inside the uterus (womb) to find an egg.  Using a condom and another form of contraception at the same time is called ‘dual protection’ and is the most effective protection. Only condoms reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

Short-Acting Contraception: The Pill, Patch and Injection

Contraceptive pills must be taken every day at about the same time. A packet of pills will last a month. The Patch works similarly but is worn for a week at a time (3 weeks of 1 patch per week then 1 week patch free).  The injection is given by a nurse and lasts for either two or three months (depending on which one is used). All of these methods are very effective at preventing unintended pregnancy if they are taken as directed. A person needs to go to their health care provider or a clinic to get a prescription for these methods. In South Africa a young person can legally access contraceptive without parental consent from the age of 12. Before deciding to have sex a couple should discuss how they plan to protect themselves from both pregnancy and STIs and HIV.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and IUDs

There are two long-acting reversible contraceptive methods the implant or the IUD or “loop”. These are the most effective protection possible against unintended pregnancy because they do not leave room for human error (like forgetting to take a pill or not going to the clinic on the correct day for an injection).

The contraceptive implant is a matchstick-sized bendable silicon rod that is fitted under the skin of the upper arm by a nurse or doctor. It releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing an egg and also thickening the cervical mucus to stop sperm from getting into the uterus to find an egg. It can provide up to three years of protection against pregnancy (but be removed at any time if another method is preferred).

The intra-uterine device (IUD), also called “the loop”, is a small piece of flexible plastic and copper shaped like a T. A nurse or doctor fits the IUD into the uterus.  The device makes it difficult for sperm to get to an egg.  It can provide between 5 and 10 years of protection against pregnancy depending on the method (but be removed at any time if another method is preferred).

Like short-acting methods, long-acting methods do not prevent against STIs and HIV, so it’s important to also use a new latex condom each and every time when having sex.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Parents or guardians can start talking with their children about pregnancy and how to prevent it before their children become sexually active. When parents and guardians talk with their children about these topics, children learn that they can come to their parents if and when they have questions. Below are some ways to start these conversations:

 

If you’re watching a show where a couple is pregnant, you can talk to your child about it

“Do you think those two characters are ready to have a baby?” You could also ask, “How do you think they could have prevented the pregnancy?”