Birth Control

Family Planning: What You Need to Know

Family Planning is a frequent topic when discussing women's health and wellness, however it's not always clear what people mean by family planning, nor what family planning is and can achieve in its own capacity.

At Alpha, we believe that women should know everything they need to know to make educated, well thought out choices about their lives and futures - so we are bringing you everything you need to know about family planning.

Is it just about preventing pregnancy? Why plan a family anyway? Read on to find out.

What is Family Planning?

At its most basic, it is a way for individuals to determine their family size, as well as the timing and spacing of their children. This may be achieved through means of contraception or other.

Family Planning is a conscientious approach to building a family and it allows a woman to decide the age at which she is ready to have children, or to choose to have no children at all. It is a framework in which women use different methods available to them to control unwanted pregnancies and reduces the rate of infertility by controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

In a nutshell, family planning is responsible sexual behavior. Starting or raising a family is a huge decision, and it is important that all women take into consideration the benefits family planning can have for for herself, her family, her community– and even society at large.

Who Can Benefit from Family Planning?

Everyone can benefit from family planning. Although we have developed more advanced contraceptive technology, the rate of unintended pregnancy in the United States remains high.

Unintended pregnancies in the United States are due to a variety of factors including: lack of access to birth control, failure of birth control, misuse of contraceptives, and lack of motivation to avoid pregnancy. Further, unintended pregnancies are most common among young, unmarried, low-income women, and/or ethnic minorities. Teenagers and young adults especially (about 18-24 years of age) have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy.

To compound this issue, babies born to adolescent mothers have higher rates of neonatal mortality and adolescent mothers are more likely to leave school – causing long-term implications.

Family planning enables young people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health, as well allowing for autonomy and self-development without the emotional and financial strain of an unwanted pregnancy.

Methods of Family Planning

In 2019, we have many different methods to employ in a successful family planning strategy. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Condoms
    • Male condom – Covers the man's penis and forms a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the vagina. 98% effective with perfect use and 85% effective with typical use. This method also protects against sexually transmitted infections.
    • Female condom – Sheath that fits inside the woman's vagina to form a barrier and prevent sperm from entering the vagina. 90% effective with perfect use and 79% effective with typical use. Like the male condom, the female condom also protects against sexually transmitted infections.
    • Spermicides —placed in the vagina 1 hour before intercourse and kills sperm. Spermicides come in several forms—foam, gel, cream, film, suppository, or tablet. They are placed in the vagina no more than one hour before intercourse. You leave them in place at least six to eight hours after intercourse. You can use a spermicide in addition to a male condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap. When used alone, typical use failure rate of spermicides is 21%.
  • Oral Birth control pills – Available in two forms, the combined pill (that contains estrogen and progestin) and progestin-only pills (which do not contain estrogen), oral birth controls work to prevent ovulation and/or to block sperm from reaching an egg. The pill is 99% effective with perfect use and 91% effective with typical use.
  • Implants – Small capsules placed under the skin in a female's arm that contains progestin. Progestin serves to thicken cervical mucus to block the sperm from meeting an egg. It is about 99% effective and can be used for 3-5 years.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) – a small flexible plastic device that is inserted into the uterus and steadily releases either progestin or copper which creates an environment in the cervix that blocks the sperm from reaching an egg. IUDs are about 99% effective. The copper IUD can be used as emergency contraception if inserted within five days of unprotected sex, and can be used up to 12 years after insertion.
  • Surgery
    • Male sterilization (vasectomy) – Permanent contraception to block the tubes that carry sperm from the testicals. 97-99% effective depending on semen evaluation.
    • Female sterilization (tubal ligation or removal) – Permanent contraception to block or completely remove the fallopian tubes. It is more than 99% effective.
  • Rhythm method – Women monitor their menstrual patterns and prevent pregnancy by abstaining from unprotected sex during the first and last estimated fertile days. It is 91% effective if used perfectly but only 75% effective with common use.
  • Withdrawal – The man withdraws his penis from his partner's vagina before ejaculating, keeping sperm away from her genitalia and preventing fertilization. It is 96% successful with correct and consistent use but only 73% successful with typical use. This is one of the least effective methods.

Family Planning Tips

It's a good idea talk to your clinicianand let them know the method of family planning that you are considering, as well as your biggest goals. They will advise you and also help you with any prescriptions that you may need.

Here are some basic tips to consider along with what your clinician may suggest:

  • Choose a method of contraception that is well-suited for your lifestyle and stage in life. For instance, women that are nursing may be better off with progestin-only forms of hormonal birth control.
  • Familiarize yourself with the different forms of contraception available and how to use them correctly.
  • Choose a form of contraception that you and your partner can agree upon and are likely to use consistently.
  • Consult with your clinician if you have any concerns or questions about which form of contraception is best for you.

Finally – Why Family Planning?

Successful family planning improves the health and quality of life of women, mothers, children, and families. It means having control in their lives – be it going to school, building a career, traveling, or choosing to have a baby – it's a woman's choice to make. It's a tool and a framework that allows individuals to choose when they are ready to start a family, or whether they will start a family at all. Successful family planning prevents pregnancy-related health risks in women, especially adolescent women and older women. Lastly, it allows for families to space out when they have children – easing any economic or emotional burdens they may face due to unwanted pregnancy.

Family planning is about autonomy – whether you choose to have children, when you choose to have them, and how many you choose to have – the decision is yours to make, so start considering family planning and what it means to you.

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