Sun | Oct 21, 2018

The truth behind the Injection

Published:Sunday | August 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Krysta Anderson, Lifestyle Writer

The National Family Planning Board is currently running an ad campaign againsts teen pregnancy and promoting the two-method concept, one of which is the injection.

For those who are unfamiliar with the commercial, the older sister in the ad already has a child and is recommending the injection as one of the main forms of contraceptive to her younger sister in order to prevent her from making the same mistake she did.

From this, there has been some discussion as to whether or not the injection is a suitable preventative option for a teenager, particularly one who does not have any children.

To put those arguments to rest, Outlook has sought the professional opinion of obstetrician/ gynaecologist Dr Chris-Ann Simpson-Harley. Dr Simpson-Harley said, "If you want the person to be on it for an extended period, I would not recommend it as the ideal contraceptive for them. It is not the first form of contraceptive that I recommend to my patients." She noted that the Depo Provera is injected into the arm or the buttocks and, for effective results, it should be taken once every three months. It is usually administered six weeks after a woman has delivered a child and is breastfeeding or immediately after delivery even if the woman is not breastfeeding.

She explains that while it is the most effective in preventing pregnancy, by stopping ovulation, it thickens the mucus at the womb's entry in order to block sperm entry and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from being embedded. She would not advise a young woman who has never been pregnant to take it. Her reason - fertility takes a long time to return, ranging from four months and upwards.

Side effects

Like most forms of contraceptives, Depo Provera also includes some side effects. These include weight gain, and a woman can gain up to 10 kilograms at once. Other reactions may comprise irregular spotting and bleeding, thinning of the bone over a five to 10-year period, and a delay in fertility - if and when a woman decides to have a child.

Based on the side effects, there are other contraceptives she recommends that are readily available and easier to access by the masses. "For the injection, you have to go to a health-care professional to receive it, and you have to be on time in order for it to be effective, which can be a hassle. A young person, on the other hand, can practise taking the oral contraceptive along with using a condom. Pills are also easier to source than the injection, because they are free at the clinic and inexpensive at private outlets," the doctor pointed out.

On a positive note, there are no recommendations as it relates to the age at which a teenager can begin taking it. It can be taken at any time and is highly recommended for patients with sickle cell disease. Also, unlike the Pill, it is suitable for persons 35 years and over and up until menopause. "There is no cut-off time for the injection because it doesn't contain estrogen like the pill," affirms Dr Simpson-Harley.

It is the doctor's medical opinion, however, that the Pill and the condom be explored as a primary form of contraception, while the injection should remain as a third choice for a woman who has never had any children.