Which contraceptive is best for you?

Choosing the right contraceptive can be very tricky when there are so many options to choose from (long term and short term). Remember that everyone’s body is different and what works for your friend might not be the best option for you. Here are the different types of contraceptives that you can discuss with your healthcare provider on your next visit.

The implant

What is it: The implant is a matchstick-sized rod that’s inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It works by releasing the hormone progestin in small amounts. The implant is a great option for women who want long-lasting, reversible birth control that they don’t need to think about every day.

Advantages: The implant is considered one of the most effective birth control methods and you won’t have to keep visiting your family planning facility to maintain it (unlike the pill or injection).

Disadvantages: You’ll need to see a healthcare professional to have the implant inserted. It’s a hormonal contraceptive, which means it doesn’t offer protection against STIs and HIV, so you’ll need to keep using condoms.

Intra-uterine device (IUD)

What is it: The IUD is a T-shaped device that’s inserted into a woman’s uterus (womb). There are two types of IUDs – a non-hormonal one made from copper, and another one that releases the hormone progestin. The IUD may be a good option if you struggle to keep up with a scheduled contraceptive, like the pill or injection.

Advantages: Depending on the type of IUD you go for, it can protect you from pregnancy for up to 12 years. It’s also reversible, so if you decide you want to get pregnant, you can get it removed at any time. It won’t affect your fertility or make it harder to get pregnant in the future.

Disadvantages: A health professional will need to insert your IUD. A hormonal IUD may have some side effects, while a copper one can make your period longer and/or heavier.


What is it: Injectable contraceptives usually contain the hormone progestin and are given through a shot in the arm every three months. It’s ideal for someone who may forget to take a pill every day and doesn’t want something permanently inserted.

Advantages: The injection is safe to use when breastfeeding, isn’t affected by any other medication you’re on and it can alleviate (make better) heavy, painful periods and help with premenstrual symptoms (PMS) for some women.

Disadvantage: Some women can experience irregular or missed periods once they stop taking the injection. This can delay you falling pregnant if you’re planning to.

The pill

What is it: There are many different types of contraceptive pills. Most of them contain oestrogen and progestin (hormones) but some have progestin alone. If taken at the same time every day, without skipping a dose, the pill can be as effective as the impant.

Advantages: The pill can sometimes help women with hormone-related acne and help make menstrual cramps (period pains) better.

Disadvantages: At first, taking the pill can cause temporary side effects like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about any side effects you may be experiencing so that they can explore a better option for you.

Condom (male and female)

What is it: The male condom is a sheath (tightly fitting covering) made from latex (rubber), polyurethane and tactylon (both are types of plastic) which covers the penis during sex.

The female condom is a soft, loose-fitting pouch with a ring on each end. One ring is inserted into the vagina to hold the female condom in place. The ring at the open end of the condom remains outside the vagina.

Advantages: Condoms are the only methods of birth control that help prevent pregnancy while also protecting against STIs. Even if you’re already using a different kind of birth control to avoid pregnancy, it’s a good idea to use condoms every time you have sex for extra protection.

Remember Choma, there are many factors to consider when choosing a contraceptive, including your medical history, how you respond to treatment, your lifestyle and preferences. The journey to finding the best contraceptive for you can take a bit of trial and error, so you’ll need to keep talking to your doctor or nurse.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).