26 September is World Contraception Day – an important day to celebrate the medical advances made over time, but also to create greater awareness in South Africa of what contraceptives are available and how they work.
The Pill is considered to be one of the most socially significant advances in modern medicine. It has helped to revolutionise women’s empowerment, opportunities, levels of education and health outcomes.
Why Days Like World Contraception Day Are Important
In South Africa, there is still a lack of communication and knowledge around contraception. According to the journal of Reproductive Health, South African women, including younger women, identified sexual and reproductive health knowledge gaps themselves and identified these gaps as important factors that influenced uptake and effective contraceptive use. These knowledge gaps were overwhelmingly linked to poor or absent communication and counselling provided by health care providers.
A Brief History Of Contraception
Research has shown that birth control (or, shall we say, the attempts around it) have been around for as long as time. Ancient methods include using honey or acacia, lead, silphium and even douching. The first use of “condoms” dates back to the 1600s – they were made from animal membranes, including bladders and intestines. Most ancient methods were harmful or ineffective.
According to OneCondoms.com, the first intrauterine devices were developed in 1909, made out of silkworm guts. In America, the banning of information surrounding safe sex and contraception made it dangerous for doctors and other advocates of women’s reproductive health to distribute information and birth control products.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960. Within two years of its initial distribution, 1.2-million American women were using the “The Pill”, according to the AMA Journal of Ethics: History of Oral Contraception. It also states that, since its introduction, more than 300-million women worldwide have used the pill as a simple, safe, and effective means of achieving reproductive freedom.
Contraception Currently Available Today
Combined hormone pills
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Sterilisation (vasectomy, tubal ligation)
Types of contraceptives available for free in South Africa, at public hospitals, include: oral contraceptives, IUDs (lasts for five years), implants (lasts for three years), injections (nine to 18 months), patches and rings. The injection is the most popular method in South Africa, according to the South African Medical Journal.
Ask your medical doctor or gynaecologist about the variety of contraceptive methods available today.