Family Planning and Health

One of the big issues facing the global community today is how to sustain a growing population. There is not enough food for the world population, and natural resources are quickly being depleted. Family planning is a simple solution that can help alleviate many of these global strains. According to the United Nations, 64% of married or partnered women are using contraception, but in undeveloped countries, that rate drops to only 40%. Even in developed countries, family planning can help women or couples lead a healthier, safer, and happier life.

What Is Family Planning?

Family planning is the discussion about having or not having children and determining how to control the period of time between births. The ideal childbearing age for women is between 18 and 35 years old. Having children outside of that age range increases health risks for both the mother and the baby. The decision to have children is an intensely personal one and needs to be considered before engaging in sexual activity, since pregnancy might be an outcome.

Talking About Family Planning

Committed couples need to talk about how many children, if any, they would like to add to their family. Children require an extensive financial and time commitment. Preventing pregnancy until the parents are ready to make that commitment can be beneficial to the long-term health and happiness of their children. It’s also recommended that couples wait two years between pregnancies. This age gap will lead to better health for both the mother and the children.

Contraceptive Methods

Modern contraceptive methods provide high rates of effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. Women who intend to never have children can seek sterilization, but all other contraceptive methods allow for a return to normal fertility. Hormonal birth control and IUDs are the most effective, preventing pregnancy 92% of the time. Male condoms are 85% effective, and using a diaphragm with spermicide is 84% effective.

Some couples prefer all-natural methods of birth control, which, while effective, do not prevent pregnancy as well as other methods. The fertility awareness method relies on determining when a woman is fertile and avoiding sex during this period. The withdrawal method refers to the withdrawal of the penis before ejaculation. Both of these methods prevent pregnancy only around 75% of the time.

Emergency Contraception

If a situation occurs where a woman is put at risk of pregnancy before she is ready to have children, there are options for emergency contraception. The first is a pill, frequently called the morning-after pill. There are several different brands, such as Plan B and Ella. These pills can prevent pregnancy for up to five days, and they should be taken within 72 hours of the pregnancy risk. Another option for emergency contraception is the insertion of an IUD (intrauterine device) into the uterus. An IUD is expensive, often costing hundreds of dollars, but will continue to provide birth control for many years.

Working With Fertility

When trying to conceive, the natural fertility cycle needs to be considered. The calendar method of tracking fertility works by counting the number of days in each menstrual cycle, from the first day of a period to the first day of the next, to help calculate when the woman will ovulate. Fertility can also be determined by paying attention to the consistency of cervical mucus. Introducing sperm on these fertile days can dramatically increase the chance of pregnancy.

Unplanned or Complicated Pregnancies

Sometimes, an unplanned or complicated pregnancy may occur. An unplanned pregnancy is one that was not expected. A complicated pregnancy could refer to a developmental issue with the fetus, an unforeseen health issue for the mother, or some combination of the two. These pregnancies may simply be mistimed, or they may be unwanted. In the case of the latter, the parents will need to talk about what course of action to take. A pregnancy can be carried to term and the resulting baby can be given up for adoption, or the pregnancy can be terminated.

A pregnancy may be ended for myriad reasons, such as the inability to provide for a child, unwillingness to have a child, a birth defect in the fetus, or a pregnancy resulting from a rape. There are two main methods of abortion. In a medical abortion, a pill is taken to induce a breakdown in the uterine lining. The pill may be used if the pregnancy is less than nine weeks along. For pregnancies up to 16 weeks along, a surgical abortion may be performed. A doctor should always be consulted before pursuing either option.

For more information on family planning, please feel free to explore the resources provided below.