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How to prevent teenage pregnancy in South Africa

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Looking for how to prevent teenage pregnancy in South Africa? Read this! Here are strategies and tips for helping high school-aged girls, teenagers prevent pregnancy.

How to prevent teenage pregnancy in South Africa:

1. Practise Abstinence:

This is the most effective way to prevent teenage pregnancy. You decide NOT to have sex until you are married.

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Some people think abstinence is old-fashioned, religious teachings will tell you the importance of abstinence and how it is God’s plan that teenagers wait for marriage before they have sex.

The truth however remains that abstinence is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Unlike birth control methods which can prevent pregnancy if used properly but also fail occasionally, practicing abstinence ensures that a girl won’t become pregnant because there’s no opportunity for sperm to fertilize an egg.

Not having sex, aka abstinence, is the only surefire way to avoid a pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, like HPV. Some strains of HPV have been linked to cervical cancer.

2. Delay Sex until you are no longer a teenager:

This is second option to how to prevent teenage pregnancy. Teenagers who don’t want to wait until they are married to have sex can prevent teenage pregnancy by delaying sex till they are more mature, more independent. Until they can afford to pay their own bills and take care of the responsibilities that comes with pregnancy.

3. Contraception

Contraception simply means using a method (mechanical or chemical) to prevent pregnancy.

There are various contraceptives that work in different ways, for example, condoms have the advantage of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and oral contraceptives are probably the most effective in preventing pregnancy.

Other contraceptive options include the barrier contraceptives available to women, spermicides, sponges, intrauterine devices, periodic abstinence, and the morning after pill.

They are all designed to prevent pregnancy.

Let’s take them one by one:

Sexually active girls should not only use condoms (male or female), but should also make use of another form of contraception. This is because condoms are useful in preventing STIs, they are not, however, the most effective method to prevent pregnancy.

Condoms (male or female) are effective in preventing STIs, but should not be used as the primary method of preventing teenage pregnancy.

  • The Pill and hormonal injections:

The contraceptive pills are available as a combination of oestrogen and progestogen or as progestogen-only pills. They are most often used and rarely carries health risks for teens.

If taken correctly, oral contraceptives are highly effective in preventing pregnancy. Added advantages of oral contraceptives are that they can make periods more regular and relieve iron deficiency anaemia, premenstrual tension and period pains. The combination pill is also effective in treating acne.

The disadvantage, however, is that they need to be taken regularly, preferably at the same time each day. This makes it NOT the ideal choice for an absent-minded, disorganised teen.

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Again, some medications, including antibiotics and epilepsy drugs, may cause the pill to become less effective in which case condoms have to be used until the next period.

Some teens suffer side-effects such as skin pigmentation or nausea, in which case, a different pill may be prescribed.

Injectable contraceptives are 99% effective, as long as the injection is repeated at the correct intervals.

  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs):

IUDs are highly effective as they provide immediate prevention of pregnancy and are long-acting. However, for teens, IUDs are usually not the preferred choice of contraceptive.

They are better suited for women older than 35 years and for those who have completed their families. An IUD should never be used by someone who has multiple sexual partners because they have a higher risk of STIs and therefore of developing pelvic inflammatory disease.

  • Diaphragms, cervical caps, condoms and spermicides :

These are all barrier methods. Diaphragms and cervical caps are not freely available in South Africa. They are also not as effective against pregnancy as the pill, injection or IUDs.

Spermicides are sperm-killing chemicals available as gel, foam, jelly, foaming tablets, vaginal suppositories or cream which are inserted into the vagina. On their own, they have a higher failure rate.

They should be used with diaphragms, caps or condoms.

If 100 women use the diaphragm or cap together with a spermicide, five to 20 users will become pregnant within one year.

4. Natural methods like the rhythm method and withdrawal:

  • Withdrawal (removal of the penis immediately before ejaculation aka coitus interruptus):

This is a very unreliable method to prevent teenage pregnancy.

Many teens fall pregnant because they mistakenly believe that withdrawal (coitus interruptus) or the rhythm method, protect against pregnancy. They forget that, during coitus interruptus, that some sperms can be deposited in the vagina before or during withdrawal.

For this same reason again, it does not protect against STIs.

This method involves a woman keeping a menstrual calendar to predict her most fertile period. It is not a safe choice as to how to prevent teenage pregnancy as it requires accurate record-keeping and additional measurements of the basal temperature.

This not a safe choice of contraception for teens, as they often don’t have regular, well-established menstrual cycles.

5. Morning after pill:

If a teenager has unprotected sex the night before – if you act fast, you can still prevent an unwanted pregnancy by taking Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), also called the “morning-after-pill”.

They are a safe and effective method to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. ECPs prevent pregnancy by stopping or delaying an egg from being released from the ovary, by preventing the sperm from getting to the egg, or by stopping a fertilised egg from attaching to the womb.

ECPs may be used up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex but they are most effective if taken within 24 hours after sex.

However, doctors warn that ECPs should not be used as regular birth control. They are not as effective as other birth control methods and furthermore, frequent use of high doses of hormones is not recommended.

CONCLUSION:

Effective ways on how to prevent teenage pregnancy still falls back to parents explaining Safe Sex to their teenage children. Teach your teenagers to respect their bodies.

Lay out the consequences of getting pregnant as teenagers. For example, mothers have to be very frank with their daughters and explain that if they get pregnant and have a child, they should not expect their moms to step up and take on the parenting responsibilities.

Mothers should make it a point to explain the realities of living life as a teen mom. Encourage teenagers to gain experience caring for a baby, don’t make sex a taboo subject to discuss with your teenagers.

What can I do if I’m pregnant? What to do if your teenage daughter is already pregnant?

Take someone you trust with you and visit the Clinic to check if you are pregnant or not. Start antenatal care at 8 weeks (2 months) of pregnancy once your pregnancy is confirmed.

If the pregnancy is unwanted :

Visit your nearest clinic and ask about your options.

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