Jambo Africa Online’s Senior Health Correspondent, Boitumelo Ntsoane, tackles the importance of family planning in this week’s edition.

An estimated 222 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception. Promotion of family planning and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples is empowering and gives them a choice. Family planning addresses one objective that of reducing pregnancy . It is achieved through use of a variety of contraceptive methods.

Benefits of Family Planning

  • Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children
  • Family planning reduces the need for unsafe abortion
  • Family planning allows people to attain their desired number of children and determine the spacing of pregnancies.

Back in the days and due to our cultural diversity, traditional methods were the trusted and relied methods however they came with great limitations, uncertainty and unreliability. Many tested conventional methods of Family Planning are now available which are more reliable and accurate thus allowing you to plan your family size and being in control.

It is important to note that many of the methods can only be obtained with the help of the doctor ,pharmacist and professional nurses who have prescribing licences you will be advised on the most suitable method. The doctor would assess your health current health status, family history and possible risks and make an informed recommendation. 

The number of contraception methods have drastically increased with the very recent one being introduced by the Minister of Health, Doctor Aaron Motsoaledi last year in March, which is a subdermal implant .The device is implanted just under the skin on the inner upper arm and remains active for three years. It is being provided in all public health facilities, free of charge to any woman, regardless of her socio-economic status.

There are different methods of contraception which are differentiated by how they work and they include the following:

  • Long acting reversible contraception, such as an implant or an intrauterine device
  • hormonal contraception such as contraceptive pills, injection, patch
  • Barriers methods such as condoms and diaphragms
  • Traditional Method (Natural Family Planning)
  • Sterilization.

These methods work by:

  • Preventing an egg from being released every month (hormones)
  • Preventing sperm forms from reaching the egg (barrier method)
  • Blocking the reproductive function in men or women (sterilization)
  • Preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus (hormones).

The most commonly used contraceptive methods is the pill (requires a doctor’s prescription) and condomwhich provide close to 95%-99% if the pill is taken correctly daily as prescribed and condom used properly. 

The are two types of pills, the other contains two types of hormones, oestrogen and progestin while the other only contain one hormone, progestin. The pill that contains one hormone needs to be strictly adhered to and taken at the same time daily. If you miss 3 hours then take extra precaution by utilizing a condom. It is important to note that the pill doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

The Intra-uterine device can be used long term as they are inserted inside the vagina by your doctor and can last up to five years.

Contraceptive Injections

These are also hormone containing like the pill and last for a period of 8 to 12 weeks and are about 99% effective. 

Contraceptive Patch:

This is also exactly as the contraceptive pill but in a form of a patch. It must be worn for three weeks conservatively and be taken off on the 4th week to allow your menstrual cycle. All caution must be taken to ensure that it does come off and thus reducing its effieciency, if it does take extra precaution and consult your health practitioner.


This is an option available for both men and women. For men it is called a vasectomy which is a simple procedure of tying off and cutting the tubes that carry sperm. For females you have the option of a surgical or non-surgical procedure. The surgical one which is known as tubal litigation requires tying or cutting of the fallopian tube and its effect are permanent thus one must be very sure of your decision .

Non surgical procedure consists of placing a coil in each fallopian tube through the vagina and uterus so that scars appear and eventually block each tube completely. The scars might take a period of 12 weeks to form and completely block the tube therefore your health practitioner will advice of another method to use until you are safe.

Natural Family Planning

This relies purely on knowing the menstrual cycle and sex should be avoided when the woman is fertile. The effectiveness of this type of contraception is low, about 75% due to the fact that most women do not have a perfectly regular menstrual cycle.


There is no contraception that offers 100% protection (except abstinence) against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases because there is always a risk that an accident can happen, forgetting to take the pill on time, condom rupture. You need to be careful and consistent and also because our bodies are completely different, and we react differently. Seek professional medical advice to clarify any issue you might have or if you might be experiencing side-effects.