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Family Planning

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

4 Reasons Why Would You Need Family Planning

1. Preventing conception

Family planning can help you space out your pregnancies, limit your family size, or avoid pregnancy altogether. Anyone who wishes to prevent pregnancy can benefit from family planning services.[1]

2. Promoting conception

Some methods of family planning can also help boost your fertility. The natural family planning (NFP) method can be used to either prevent or promote pregnancy. This method is an excellent option for women who are trying to conceive.[2]

3. Managing your menstrual cycle

Hormonal birth control medications can also help you manage your menstrual cycle. These drugs may provide relief from heavy periods, painful cramps, or intense PMS symptoms. Many women with irregular periods also use hormonal birth control to regulate their menstrual cycle.[3]

4. Preventing STDs

Some methods of family planning can also help stop the spread of STDs. Barrier methods like condoms are essential for preventing STD exposure.[4] If you have multiple sexual partners, most doctors recommend using condoms. Many couples use barrier methods alongside hormonal birth control. Using two or more methods of birth control may further reduce your chances of pregnancy.[5]

Understanding Family Planning

Failing to use birth control puts you at risk of unplanned pregnancies. 85% of heterosexual couples who have unprotected sex will become pregnant within one year,[6] but family planning through birth control can help prevent this. When used correctly, most methods of birth control provided by a doctor are over 90% effective.[5]

Birth control methods fall into four general categories:[5]

  • Barrier methods
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Sterilization
  • Natural family planning

Barrier methods block sperm from reaching the egg. These barriers are sometimes used along with spermicidal creams and gels. Spermicide helps kill sperm, further reducing your chances of pregnancy.[5]

Hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy by blocking ovulation. These drugs can be delivered through pills, injections, or implantable devices.[5] They often thicken cervical mucus to help block sperm or thin the uterine lining to prevent implantation. Hormonal medications can also help treat a variety of gynecological health conditions.[3]

Sterilization is a permanent form of birth control that requires surgery. Unlike most other types of birth control, sterilization usually can't be reversed. Sterilization is only suitable for people who feel sure that they don't want any future pregnancies.[5]

Natural family planning (NFP) doesn't involve medications or special devices. Instead, NFP requires you to track your physical symptoms to determine when you're fertile. If you wish to avoid pregnancy, you must abstain from intercourse on these days. Barrier methods may also be used on your fertile days. People who want to become pregnant may choose to have sex on their fertile days to increase their chances of conception.[2]

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Risks of a Family Planning

NFP is a safe, risk-free method of family planning, but it isn't right for everyone. Many women find it tedious to track their fertility. Others may find it difficult to abstain from intercourse during fertile days. NFP also offers no protection against STDs.[7]

Barrier methods are another low-risk option, and they can help protect against STDs. Many men and women rely on barrier methods as their primary method of birth control, but some people are allergic to latex or spermicide gels.[5] If you have severe allergies, your doctor may recommend avoiding barrier methods.

Hormonal birth control can be a simple, effective method for preventing pregnancy, but these drugs can sometimes cause serious side effects. Some hormonal drugs can increase your risk of blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer. Smoking may increase these risks further.[5] Depending on your medical history, your doctor may recommend avoiding hormone medications.

Sterilization procedures are safe for most people, but as with any surgical procedure, there is always some risk of complication. Pain, bleeding, or infection can sometimes follow sterilization procedures.[5] Recovery times can also vary. Some people undergoing sterilization need to stay at the hospital overnight.

What to Expect with Family Planning

There are many methods of family planning. Each one carries different risks and requires different medical care.

When discussing family planning, your doctor may ask you about any previous pregnancies. It's important to let your doctor know about all past pregnancies, including those that were not carried to term. Your doctor may also ask if you plan to become pregnant in the future.

During your office visit, your doctor may perform a physical exam. These exams usually involve checking your weight, blood pressure, and heart rate. Your doctor might also perform a pelvic exam.[8][9] During this procedure, your doctor inserts gloved fingers into your vagina. Next, he or she presses on your abdomen to feel for any swelling or masses.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest a pelvic ultrasound. This test is usually not painful and carries few risks. Pelvic ultrasounds can help detect health problems that may interfere with pregnancy or birth control.

Your doctor may also perform a pregnancy test. Hormonal birth control methods can sometimes negatively affect pregnancy. It's important to confirm that you're not pregnant before starting these medications.

After your exam, your doctor can help you choose the method of birth control that's best for you. Your doctor will explain how to use this method to prevent pregnancy. Your doctor may also schedule regular follow-up appointments. Follow-up care helps ensure that you don't experience any complications with your chosen method.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Family Planning

  • What methods of family planning are available?
  • What methods are safe for someone with my medical history?
  • Which methods are most effective for preventing pregnancy?
  • Which methods have the highest out-of-pocket costs?
  • Which methods are most cost-effective?
  • Are there any risks associated with my preferred method of birth control?
  • If I decide to become pregnant in the future, will my birth control cause any problems?
  • What should I do if I become pregnant while using birth control?

Family Planning May Also Be Known As:

  • Birth control or prevention
  • Fertility treatment

References:

9 Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.