In February 2014, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi introduced the country’s first under-the-skin implant to prevent pregnancy, called Implanon Nxt, as part of new national guidelines aimed to expand women’s birth control choices.
From Mpumalanga’s Mkhondo Local Municipality, 27-year-old Nhlabathi switched to the implant about a year ago prompted by side effects stemming from her previous injectable birth control.
According to Implanon Nxt’s insert, the match-sized device can lead to vaginal discomfort stemming from an increase or change in secretions. Nhlabathi reports she experienced a reduction in vaginal secretions that she attributes to the contraception – and one that she said her boyfriend enjoyed.
“When I was using the normal contraceptive my boyfriend used to complain while we having sex, saying, ‘your vagina is watery,’” she told OurHealth. “After putting in the implant, he said nothing.”
Nhlabathi says the implant has helped her plan for the future.
“The implant has given me enough time to plan for having kids and now, I am not worried about having another child in the near future” adds the single mother. “I sometimes wish (the implant) could have come sooner – (then) I wouldn’t be having three kids at the age of 27.”
But she adds her boyfriend fell prey to many myths around the upper-arm implant.
“Three months after inserting the implant we broke up and his reason was that he couldn’t wait three years to have a baby,” Nhlabathi adds.
Although the implant can protect a woman from unwanted pregnancy for about three years, women wanting to have a baby can remove it sooner. Once a woman removes the implant, she can fall pregnant quickly. Implant manufacturers Merck advises women wait until after their first natural period after removing the implant before trying to conceive. This will help women more accurately predict when the baby will be due, according to the package insert.
Double up for safety’s sake
But the implant will never protect women from HIV or sexually transmitted infections, which is why Nhlabathi says she will also use condoms with her next boyfriend.[quote float= right]“Poverty is the biggest factor when it comes to women initiating condoms in their relationship because they are afraid of losing their only source of income”
“I may not have a partner now but when I decide to start dating for sure I will use a condom to protect myself and my partner as well,” she tells OurHealth.
Beauty Mhlanga is a local health promoter. She says although poverty makes some women eager to please – and keep – their partners by having unprotected sex, she encouraged women to use dual protection
“Poverty is the biggest factor when it comes to women initiating condoms in their relationship because they are afraid of losing their only source of income,” she explained. “Some think that if they do initiate (condom use), men will think they have something to hide like having more sexual partners or that they are HIV positive.”
“My advice to women is that no matter what your partner or partners think of you using birth control and condoms, protect yourself first and worry about their thinking later,” she added. “Your health and safety should always come first…it’s our bodies and we should take care of ourselves.”
- Read more: New birth control hits mark with Mpumalanga women
- Read more: Circular – changes in the prescription of Implanon
An abridged version of this story was first published in the Daily Sun.