Updated 23 September 2013

The right contraception for you

Choosing a birth control method that is suitable for you and your family is very important. Here are some of your choices.


Choosing a birth control method that is suitable for you and your family is very important. Only you can decide what is best for you and your circumstances. But sometimes trying to choose the correct method can be a bit overwhelming.

Where and how do you start in making the right decision? The initial step is to make sure you are well informed regarding birth control and all options that are available to you.

Family planning’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘birth control’, but there are subtle differences in the two terms. Birth control is a method anybody can use to prevent pregnancy; while family planning is seen as something couples use to plan, rather than prevent, children.

Family planning includes all common methods of birth control, such as the pill, the injection, male and female condoms. The more uncommon methods that are not readily available in South Africa would be the patch, diaphragms and spermicides. The Intrauterine Device (IUD) is one of the most effective methods, sometimes referred to as ‘reversible sterilisation’.

Types of contraception

For individuals or families that do not wish to have any more children, there are two forms of permanent contraception; vasectomies (male sterilisation) and tubal ligation (female sterilisation).

Some couples or individuals feel that artificial birth control methods are not suitable and may use some of the following natural family planning methods: temporary abstinence, the withdrawal method, or the rhythm method.

Birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all. A method that’s perfect for one individual may not be right for another.

If you are sexually active, it is your responsibility to choose and use a birth control method, unless you are prepared for a possible pregnancy.

Unplanned pregnancies

Unplanned pregnancies are not limited to teenagers. Although the statistics are particularly high among teenagers, a fair portion are from the disadvantaged sectors of the population and among women over 35, both single and married.

Unplanned pregnancies do not only occur to individuals that choose not to use birth control, but are also among individuals who practice safe sex. Failure of a birth control method depends on many factors; some of the most common reasons are human error (forgetting to take the pill or using a condom incorrectly, etc).

Slimming tablets, antibiotics, vomiting or diarrhoea, can influence the effectiveness of the pill. Remember that no method except abstinence is 100% safe. Therefore pregnancies can occur when contraceptive methods are used correctly.

Most clinics or health facilities offering family planning will provide counselling on the different contraceptive options available to help you choose a suitable method for you and your family. These services are free of charge at government health facilities or a small fee may be charged at semi-private or private facilities.

Permanent contraception: sterilisation

Sterilisation is one of the many contraceptive options available to individuals, which helps them choose the number of children they wish to have. Sterilisation is the ideal choice for men and women who have decided that their family is complete and they are certain that they do not want any more children in the future.

When considering permanent contraception you need to be 100% sure of your decision. Sterilisation is considered a permanent method of contraception. A decision to be sterilised should be taken seriously as it almost entirely eliminates the possibility of future conception.

  • Talk to a doctor/family planning sister/health educator/sterilisation representative that can answer all your questions and present the pros and cons of choice you are making. Make sure you are fully informed.
  • There are advantages and disadvantages to being sterilised. The biggest advantage is that there is no longer any reason to worry about falling pregnant and therefore no need for the pill, injection, etc.  The biggest disadvantage is that the procedure must be considered permanent.
  • If you are in a marriage or long-term relationship, you should discuss and make the decision together as it will affect both of you.
  • Consider that your needs/wants may change in the future. If you do not want any more children now, is there a possibility that through the death of a child or spouse, or a divorce, that you may change your mind? Individuals that chose to be sterilised under the age of 30 could later regret that decision.
  • Although it is a considered a permanent form of birth control, there is a slight chance of pregnancy after sterilisation.
  • Remember that sterilisation doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases. If not in a committed monogamous relationship, a condom is still recommended to help prevent the potential spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

 For further information regarding sterilisation please contact your nearest clinic or the Association for Voluntary Sterilization of South Africa (021 – 531 1665) or 

(Press release, May 2011)

Photo: Contraception from Shutterstock


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