I once asked a good friend of mine if she had ever used female contraceptives, specifically the morning-after pill.

She replied that if she had known about this pill, she would not have become a mother in her second year at Wits.

Contraceptives allow women to be responsible for their bodies and give multiple options to prevent ‘oops situations’ and unplanned nappy-changing sessions or trips to Marie Stopes.

Nicole Barnes, voluntary counselling and testing counsellor at Campus Health, breaks down what contraceptives are, what they do and the common myths surrounding them.

She explains that contraceptives take various forms, with the most commonly used being the barrier method (male and female condom) and the hormonal contraceptives (the pill and the injection).

Hormonal contraceptives prevent a woman from ovulating.

The Pill

The biggest myth about the pill is that it can make you fat. “What the pill can do is increase one’s appetite, and how one responds to the change in appetite is what affects the body,” Barnes says.

When on the pill, your menstrual cycle continues as normal but no egg is released, so you can’t fall pregnant.

The Injection

There are two types of hormonal injections, but the one generally used for young women is Noristerat. The injection tricks your body into believing that you are pregnant. You don’t have your period and you don’t ovulate. Noristerat is given at two-monthly intervals.

A common myth about the injection is that it affects a woman’s fertility. Barnes says this is incorrect. “Once you withdraw from the injection, after six months you return to the fertility level you had before you went on the injection.”

The ‘morning-after’ pill

Sister Yvonne Matimba, head of Campus Health, says morning-after pills contain

oestrogen and testosterone, two hormones produced by the ovaries daily.

The pill has to be taken immediately after unprotected sex or no later than 72

 hours after.

Matimba says the pill can be used at any time of the month, but is best used

during mid-cycle, when conception is most likely to take place.

The pills have a high failure rate when used regularly rather than occasionally. Their side effects are minimal, and include nausea and vomiting.

Campus Health gives out morning-after pills as well ‘the pill’ and ‘the injection’ for free.

Consultation is R50 for day students and R20 for residence students.