Unplanned pregnancies among students at higher educational institutions are a major concern worldwide, including South Africa. Apart from various social and psychological problems, unplanned pregnancies affect students’ objectives of achieving academic success. Research indicated that around 80 per cent of female students are sexually active. Higher educational students between the ages of 18 and 24 have one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies due to the lack of contraceptive use, knowledge and awareness regarding the use of contraceptives.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study was to assess the use of contraceptives by female undergraduate students in a higher educational institution.
In terms of methodology, a cross-sectional, descriptive quantitative survey was used.The survey included 400 female undergraduate students at a higher educational institution who were required to respond to a self-administrative questionnaire. Categorical data, such as race, religion, ethnic group, place of residence and marital status were compared to each group using Chi square. Multiple logic regression analysis was applied to test the models. In addition, frequency tables, bar charts and pie charts were generated for all variables, which served as an input for descriptive statistics, based on frequencies and percentages.
Of the 74 per cent sexually active females, 79 per cent reported using contraceptives. The most common used methods were the oral contraceptives, 38 per cent, and male condoms, 25 per cent. The most commonly known methods were condoms, 84 per cent, and the oral contraceptive, 68 per cent. The level of knowledge of the condom use to prevent sexually transmitted diseases was very high, 91 per cent. The knowledge of the benefits of contraceptives was also high, 97 per cent. There were some misconceptions, like contraceptives cause cancer and 75 per cent indicated weight gain as a side-effect of contraceptives. The level of knowledge of the emergency contraceptive was high, 90 per cent, but the awareness that it is free of charge at the campus clinic was low, 30 per cent. The level of awareness of the services was good, 72 per cent, and the most common first source of information was the school, 65 per cent. Sixteen per cent of participants indicated that religion was a factor for non-utilisation of contraceptives.
A lack of knowledge and awareness on some contraceptives methods was found. Thus educational programmes to increase student’s knowledge on all contraceptive methods, including addressing possible side-effects, and its use, are urgently needed to increase the use of contraceptives and assisting in reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancies.