Two Ways To Make Family Planning Easy & Successful
Updated March 16, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Family planning basically involves a couple's or a single person's right to decide if or when they want children and how to accomplish their family goals. This can mean either using contraception to temporarily or permanently keep you from having babies, or it can mean finding ways to conceive a child when it suits you. Either involves some methods with various success rates, but for this article, the focus will be mainly on easy ways to plan parenthood responsibly and delay pregnancy.
1. Plan Parenthood - Decide, Talk And Think
Let's start with the most important aspect of family planning - when to decide to have a baby or not. It is sobering to note that nearly half of all pregnancies in the US each year are unplanned. When a man and woman have unprotected intercourse, the woman can fall pregnant; it's as simple as that. For this reason, it is very necessary, even crucial, for every sexually active person to decide for themselves first on the matter of family planning, taking into consideration:
- Whether you want to be a parent at all;
- If you want to be a parent now;
- If you are in the position to afford or accommodate a child in your life; or
- If you are with a partner who will make a good, committed parent, should you want
This process ideally needs to happen before engaging in unprotected intercourse, irrespective of gender. You are the only person responsible for your actions, life, and body, and therefore this decision is yours in the first place.
If you are in a relationship, it is equally important for partners to discuss the possibility of pregnancy with each other - again, before having unprotected intercourse. Contrary to popular thinking, the decision to have or keep a child does not rest only with women. Having a child is a decision that deeply affects most men too. Deciding not to keep a child after falling pregnant is a perilous, hard road to take, and it can, in most societies, come at a great emotional and physical cost for both partners. This suffering can be prevented through discussion and then by taking the necessary measures to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
As mentioned, both partners in a relationship should soberly consider the implications of having unprotected sex and its possible consequences. If one of you doesn't want to engage in serious discussion about this, it should raise a red flag for the other person. If he or she is already showing that they are not interested in approaching this matter maturely and responsibly, imagine dealing with them when there's a child to raise. Think carefully about who you engage with sexually, or want to have a family with - that is the cornerstone of good family planning.
If your partner is reluctant to engage in conversation on the topic, it does not need to mean the end of the relationship. There are other options to be discussed later.
Naturally, if a man or a woman wants to engage in casual, no-strings-attached sex, it goes without saying that both of them should take precautions before coitus.
The only 100% failsafe way to prevent pregnancy is to abstain from sexual intercourse. However, there are options for reducing the risk of falling pregnant, so read on for the different ways in which you can prevent it.
2. Contraceptive Methods If You Don't Want To Fall Pregnant Now
Most contraceptive methods are created for women, and most (except the copper IUD) involve the ingestion or application of hormones. The majority of hormone-mediated methods can only be obtained with a legal prescription.
The methods all vary regarding efficacy, the regularity of use, application means, which hormones are released, how long the protection lasts, and cost. All are considered safe for use by reproductive women or men of all ages, have few contraindications, and most are highly effective if used as directed. Very few, however, protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so be sure to take extra precautions during especially casual sex.
All hormone-releasing methods for women can have side effects such as:
- changes in menstruation
- headaches or a migraine
- possible weight gain or loss
- back pain
- nausea and vomiting
- mood changes
- chronic fatigue
- vaginal infection, etc.
Visit your prescribing doctor or healthcare professional immediately if side effects are severe or prolonged. Most contraceptive methods are reversible, meaning you should be able to conceive soon after treatment termination.
All hormone contraceptive methods share the same or nearly similar mechanisms of working. Most limit your chances of fertilization by the thickening of your cervix's mucus lining and by stopping ovulation. The former means that sperm cannot permeate the mucus to fertilize an egg, and the latter keeps your eggs from being released for fertilization.
A. Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs)
This contraceptive method is for women only, and it acts over a long period (several years). Its application is once-off, and a qualified medical professional can only do insertion or removal. It is considered the most convenient contraceptive method.
There are currently two types of long-term contraceptive methods available in the US - intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants.
Do not have any of these inserted unless you're sure that you are free of sexually-transmitted disease.
i. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
- The copper IUD, the most popularly used in the US, is a T-shaped device made of polyethylene wrapped around with copper wire. It prevents fertilization by limiting sperm movement and viability. The copper IUD is FDA approved and is inserted via a woman's vagina into her uterus. It can remain in the body for up to 10 years without causing problems. However, it's not a failsafe. On the upside, it does not affect the baby if a woman should fall pregnant. It can be inserted immediately after childbirth, and it doesn't affect breastfeeding. Copper IUDs are usually not the most expensive of IUDs, but publicly-funded family planning clinics do not distribute them free of charge.
- The hormone-releasing IUD - This device is also T-shaped and made of a polydimethylsiloxane sleeve that contains levonorgestrel, a type of hormone, on the stem. The length of time this type of IUD can remain safely in your body depends on make and dosage, but it is never longer than five years. It is also the more expensive option of the LARCs.
ii. Contraceptive Implant
The contraceptive implant is a tiny, rod-shaped implant inserted under the skin where it releases etonogestrel. It can last up to three years and is considered the most effective of the long-term contraception methods.
B. Hormonal Contraception
Hormonal contraception is, strictly speaking, a misnomer, as LARCs also involve the use of hormones to prevent pregnancy. However, this is the way these methods are referred to in general. They include shorter-term solutions that need regular application or ingestion. These methods are also exclusively for women - for now.
There are four application methods: pills, shots/injections, the birth control ring, and the patch.
- The birth control or contraceptive pill is considered 99% effective, provided you take it at around the same time every day. Not every woman can use the pill, and you should rather consider other options if you are over 30 years of age, suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), and have a history of thromboembolic disease.
- The birth control shot or injection - The only type of birth control shot available in the USA is Depo Provera (DPMA). It needs to be injected every three months and is considered very effective even to treat endometriosis. However, it can lead to a loss of bone, so you should take precautions against this by taking a good mineral supplement, getting regular exercise, and going for a bone-density test every year.
- Birth control ring - This method involves wearing a hormone-releasing ring in your vagina. It is changed once a month and is distributed free by some family planning clinics. It is not considered as safe as the pill or the shot.
- Birth control patch - This method involves wearing a patch on the skin of your buttocks, back, upper arm, or belly. It releases hormones that prevent pregnancy in the same manner as the other applications. A new patch is applied every week for three weeks, and then you take a week's break before repeating the procedure. It is 91% effective and is distributed free by some family planning clinics.
C. Emergency Contraception (EC)
As its name suggests, this is the type of contraception a woman can take in the case of emergency, which would entail having had unprotected sex due to circumstances. These circumstances could include having defaulted on your usual method of contraception or simply being unprepared in general. It would be advisable to go on a more regular form of birth control, as ECs are not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy in the long term.
The EC will not work if you are already pregnant, meaning it cannot induce an abortion.
The first, most-effective form of EC is to have the copper IUD inserted as soon as possible after intercourse. The other is taking a hormone-based pill, of which there are three types. These differ regarding the type of hormones released into your bloodstream, also how often they should be taken. They work in the same way as the other hormone-based contraceptive methods to limit the chances of fertilization.
Some EC pills can be bought over the counter, while others need a prescription. The ECs are most effective when taken as directed and as soon as possible, but no later than five days after intercourse.
ECs can be used more than once during a menstrual cycle, but they are not as effective as a hormonal contraceptive or a LARC. Side effects are the same as for all other applications.
Obesity and being overweight may decrease emergency contraception pills' efficacy; the copper IUD would be the better option in such a case.
D. Barrier Method
Barrier methods work the way their name suggests - by blocking sperm from entering the uterus where they can fertilize an egg. There are several barrier methods on the market, even one for men, and all work best together with spermicide. Spermicide kills most of the sperm that enters the vagina, after which the barrier method then blocks the passage of any remaining sperm through the cervix. The following are barrier methods for birth control:
- Cervical cap
- Female condom
- Male condom
E. Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs)
FAMs are natural, drug-free ways for women to prevent pregnancy and are approximately 88% effective. The method involves tracking your ovulation cycle and having intercourse during the least fertile periods of the month. You are the most fertile on the days near ovulation.
FAMs include the following to determine the safest time of the month for sex:
- Taking your temperature at the same time every morning
- Using the calendar method to determine your menstrual cycle
- Checking your cervical mucus or vaginal discharge every day
- Using the Standard Days Method, which is a variation on the calendar month.
These methods will only be successful if you follow them religiously, and even then, they are not 100% reliable. Visit your local family planning clinic or healthcare professional for more guidance and free FAMs charts.
F. Drastic Measures
To ensure that you don't ever get children, both men and women can use methods. This is a drastic step that should not be taken lightly, as the measures are most often not reversible, and you will not be able to change your mind and have children afterward. These methods include:
- Sterilization or tubal ligation is for females and is often referred to as 'getting your (fallopian) tubes tied.' The procedure severs the pathways of eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.
- Vasectomy is a surgical procedure for males that involves cutting off the small tubes in a man's scrotum. These tubes can then no longer carry the sperm to leave the body.
Family planning is a serious matter that can be conducted more easily if the steps outlined in this article are followed. Often, hospitals, health centers, and family planning clinics offer free resources for information and birth control methods, so be sure to visit them.
However, if you and your partner battle to see eye-to-eye about anything relating to family planning or having unprotected sex, it may be wise to consider couples' therapy. Children are an even more serious commitment than marriage, so you will be wise to approach the choice with gravity.
For this, Regain may be the ideal online platform. We connect you with an experienced and well-qualified therapist to help you deal with matters such as these. Also, you can receive therapy in the privacy of your own home, at any time that suits you best.
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