Early is On Time. Always.

Writer: Sinothando Ndelu

Coming from the festive season and settling into the New Year comes with an assessment of decisions that have been made in the previous year.   This includes evaluating your sexual and reproductive health.  Are you due for a visit to the clinic for your contraceptives?  When is your follow up appointment for your Antiretroviral (ARV) medication? Is your body experiencing changes? You might experience terrible tiredness, all-day nausea,  a missed period or one that is lighter than usual. If there is a chance that you may have had unsafe sex, now is the time to go to your nearest clinic for a pregnancy test.

You can purchase a pregnancy tests at your nearest pharmacy. This is the fastest way for you to find out whether you are pregnant or not. The most sensitive tests on the market can potentially give you a positive result four to five days before your period is due. Meaning that you don’t have to wait for a missed period, or watch for other pregnancy symptoms to find out whether you are pregnant or not. It is best, however, to seek out the assistance of healthcare workers because most over-the-counter pregnancy testing kits will not tell you how far along a pregnancy is (gestation age). Early detection is extremely important as it helps you navigate your options.

The pregnancy test may come back negative. In this instance, you may want to consider contraceptives if you have no desire to fall pregnant.  Healthcare workers have the capacity to take you through contraceptive counselling. During the counselling you have a responsibility to declare pre-existing medical conditions. The healthcare worker- with your consent- may run a battery of tests to gauge if there are other conditions.  Weight and medical conditions are considerations to be made when choosing a contraceptive. After the pros and cons have been explained, you need to make a decision. With your consent, the healthcare worker may administer the contraceptive of your choice and give you a follow update.  The effectiveness of contraceptives is reliant on adherence. With long acting contraceptives, it is critical to go to follow up appointments. In instances where you have been experiencing symptoms like light headedness, an unusually light period or tiredness, be sure to request further investigation from the health care worker.

Should the pregnancy test be positive and you want to carry on with the pregnancy, the healthcare worker will refer you to an antenatal care (ANC) facility. At the ANC you will receive advice and care for the duration of your pregnancy and for a short period after the pregnancy. Pregnancy usually lasts between 38 and 40 weeks. During your antenatal care appointments, it is important to declare any medical conditions and any medication you are taking for best care of yourself and the pregnancy.

You may choose not to continue with the pregnancy. Abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Should the clinic you are in not provide abortion services, the healthcare worker has a responsibility to refer you to a facility that does, according to your development stage. You may want to consider private and safe facilities that provide comprehensive abortion care if you can afford it. Many public hospitals and clinics can assist with medical abortions up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. This is why it is critical to test for pregnancy early as early abortion services are easier to access. Beyond 10 weeks and up to 12 weeks is what we call Manual Vacuum Aspiration, which is a procedure done at a clinic or hospital. All abortion options must be clarified and administered by designated healthcare workers. For whichever method of abortion you get, note the follow up date that will be given to you by the health care officer. It is advisable upon- follow up- to consider a contraceptive options. At the centre of early pregnancy testing is CHOICE, the earlier the better.

About ACTIVATE!:

ACTIVATE! is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.

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