Almost every woman carries at least one pregnancy in their lifetime. And many of these pregnancies are unplanned, which often leads to fear and depression, especially when there is no proper preparation. But “planning pregnancy” is a good way for you and your partner to have babies when you’re fully ready. More so, family planning results in healthier pregnancies, babies, and moms. However, there are many factors to consider when planning out when and how you’ll have your children. And you can talk to your health care provider or midwife about all of these options.
What is Family Planning?Family planning is a conscious effort to develop a reproductive life plan for yourself as you prepare to start a family. You and your partner get to decide whether or not to have children; when to have children; and the conditions under which you want to have them. This is a great idea to help you plan pregnancy, but it’s not an irreversible decision. Yea, you and your partner can decide to review your plan every year to help you stay on track even as you encounter some changes in life. But it all has to focus on your goals. That said, the first step in family planning is deciding if you want to have children or not. Yea, not everyone wants children even after marriage, so you have to know where you stand. If you want to have children, then you need to consider yourself questions like:
- At what age would you like to start having children, and when would you like to have completed your family?
- How many children do you want with your partner and how many years apart do you want your children to be? This is called “birth spacing.” This is important because babies that are less than 18 months apart are slightly more at risk of having health problems.
- What is your life like? Consider whether you need to make changes in your finances, living situation, health status, relationships, job, or anything to help create the best home for your children.
- What will you do if you get pregnant before you are ready?
- Who can you discuss with about preventing pregnancy until you are prepared to have a baby? Your health care provider or midwife can talk to you about birth control options and support you in making the best decision.
- What will you do if you get pregnant anyway?
- Who can help you with measures to prevent pregnancy? Your health care provider and midwife can talk to you about birth control options and help you come up with a plan.
Family Planning MethodsWe have two basic family planning methods: Natural family planning and Contraception.
Natural Family PlanningThese are methods that help to avoid or achieve pregnancy without the use of chemicals, hormones, or barriers. A lot of people opt for the natural methods of family planning because it allows you to stop anytime without any side effects. More so, you don’t have to rely on your health care provider for birth control. Studies show that between 2 to 5 out of every 100 women per year will get pregnant if the natural family planning method is rightly used. However, about 24% of women have an unintentional pregnancy when they follow this method. You can have more chances of success with the natural method if you are okay with touching your body and you have a partner who gives consent to the natural family planning method. But take note that lifestyle, smoking, stress, and health can cause affect the changes in your body every month. Natural family planning uses several signs, including:
- Body temperature
- Position, feel, and shape of the cervix
- The color, texture, and amount of mucus in the vagina
- Breast tenderness, feelings of heaviness, as well as abdominal pain.
- The Standard days method: It identifies an 11-day period with high potential for fertility. This is usually from day 8-19 for women with menstrual cycles not longer than 32 days and no shorter than 26 days.
- The Ovulation method: This method involves paying attention to the consistency of your vaginal mucus during ovulation to determine when you are most fertile. It is otherwise called the Billings method, or cervical mucus method.
- The symptom-thermal method: This involves combining different methods of natural family planning (for example, paying attention to your vaginal mucus and also your temperature).
- The lactational amenorrhea method: This works for people who gave birth less than 6 months ago. It involves breastfeeding your baby at least every 6 hours, both day and night. You must give your baby only breastmilk for its sustenance.
ContraceptionThere are different types of birth control available to women, but a survey of about 1200 US women who are between ages 18 and 45 shows that most women have little or no knowledge about these options. A lot of people even have misperceptions about the effectiveness of these methods- more reason why a lot of women don’t make attempts to discuss with their health care providers about contraception and family planning. However, you can choose from several categories of contraception, including:
- Hormonal method: This involves the use of vaginal rings, pill, birth control shot, and patch. These methods regulate and control your hormones to prevent ovulation.
- Barrier methods: This involves the use of female condoms, male condoms, and diaphragm. These methods create a barrier between the eggs and sperm cells to prevent fertilization.
- Long-active reversible contraceptives: This involves the use of implants or intrauterine devices (IUD). The implants work like the pills and shots, while the IUDs disrupt the way sperms move so they can’t join with the egg for fertilization.
- Permanent sterilization methods, like vasectomy (for males) and getting tubes tied (for females)
- Emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, or other “morning after” pills.