Part of being in a healthy relationship is having to rely on contraceptives to prevent unplanned pregnancies. There are different birth-control methods to choose from, however, not everything works for everyone. Health For Mzansi readers share their personal experiences with using Implanon and birth control injections as methods of contraception.
While it is true that contraceptives used by couples to prevent pregnancy carry certain health risks, they also offer significant non-contraceptive health advantages.
Natasha Thando Mokoena from Pienaar in Mpumalanga has had a difficult experience with Implanon (also known as an implant) since 2020. She used an injection known as Depo Provera from 2015 to 2016. In 2017, she became pregnant after taking a break.
A harrowing experience
In 2020, Mokoena chose to use Implanon, however, it has had severe side effects, she says.
“I gained weight while taking Depo, but it wasn’t a big deal for me.”
She chose to use Implanon because it can remain in the body for three years, and says that not having to think about contraception every day or every time you have sex during this period, can alleviate worry. “I would get daily migraines, dizziness, and non-stop bleeding periods with an implant.”
Mokoena went to the resident clinic twice and was given pills to stop bleeding. She says she requested on two occasions that they could remove it, but they denied her doing so claiming that it needs to stay in her body for three years.
She experienced heavy menstrual flow in April 2023, while at work and it caused her embarrassment. This prompted her to decide that she had had enough.
“I bought a razor from the store and asked my cousin to cut my skin so I could remove the implant. However, I didn’t realise it was so deep in my skin. I only managed to get half of it out and I was bleeding a lot.”
She went to the clinic, following a non-stop bleeding situation; and they were able to remove it.
‘I would prefer to get an implant’
Pumla Sandile from Nyanga, Cape Town says the Implanon is an effective form of birth control for her.
She has been using Implanon, but her only complaint is heavy menstrual flow. “I did not have that before.”
She mentions that previously her menstrual cycle lasted for three days, but now it lasts for about seven days with heavy bleeding.
Sandile explains that selecting the right contraceptive can be a challenge as it varies from person to person.
“I have previously opted for the petogen injection and experienced symptoms such as abdominal pains, and back pains, as well as heavy menstrual flow with clots, up until I consulted a resident physician.”
She was transferred from the doctor’s office to KTC-Day Hospital in Nyanga, where she received medication to stop the bleeding. She decided not to proceed with the second appointment as the issue of bleeding still persisted.
Sandile believes that it would be beneficial to receive information regarding what to expect when using contraceptive methods, in order to know when it is necessary to seek medical attention.
Here’s what you should know about contraceptives
According to Sivenati Mancana, a qualified Choice on Termination of Pregnancy (CTOP) provider and registered nurse at Frontier Hospital’s general outpatient department clinic, contraceptives vary in their effectiveness and there are side effects, just like any other medication.
Mancana explains that one of the challenges is the use of contraceptives, particularly injections and implants, also known as Implanon.
She states that at times, experts recommend specific contraceptives based on factors such as the patient’s age, weight, and other treatments they may be undergoing.
“Unfortunately, most patients come to the clinic with their own information, which makes it difficult for a nurse to provide additional recommendations.”
Mancana mentioned that there is a tool they use to determine the effectiveness of various contraceptive methods.
Possible side effects
Mancana asserts that the side effects of these contraceptive methods can vary from woman to woman. Some women may experience irregular periods, ranging from spotting to heavy menstrual bleeding. Possible side effects include weight gain, acne, and less sexual desire. And some people complain about experiencing back pain.
“Another challenge is receiving complaints from women who have become pregnant despite using contraceptives.”
She suggests that women should have a thorough understanding of how contraceptives work and keep all relevant information in mind to ensure they are taking necessary precautions. This will help them to be on the safer side.
The duration of time it takes for a woman to get pregnant varies. Some women may conceive just by missing their ovulation date once, while others may take years to conceive after discontinuing birth control, she adds.
Things to consider when choosing a contraceptive
The use of antibiotics may affect the effectiveness of contraceptives. Mancana argues that it is important for people to know that it is possible for women to get pregnant while using contraception, as this is becoming a common occurrence.
Implanon is a preferable option to most birth control injections due to its lower incidence of side effects, she adds.
An implant is a viable option for girls who have started menstruating, as opposed to injections which require a thorough examination of factors such as whether or not the person in question has children, how many they have, and their age.
Mancana notes that plenty of contraceptives have side effects such as weight gain or weight loss, which can be managed through regular exercise and a balanced diet.
“Another risk associated with injectable contraceptives is that smokers who use Petogen may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease.”
According to Mancana, patients often provide simple information in their complaints that they could have obtained from the nurses at the clinics.
This information includes details about side effects when to seek medical attention, and which contraceptives are best suited for their needs.
She observes that some nurses are at fault for not adequately explaining crucial information to their patients.
Every patient has the right to request and receive appropriate treatment, and to be offered an alternative if it poses no risks. This is particularly important when it comes to protecting patients’ rights, advises Mancana.
“I have observed that a lot of people who receive services in public health sectors are not aware of their rights or how to file complaints. Additionally, a significant number of these people do not have confidence that their complaints can be resolved.”
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