Family planning

Specialty of Obstetrics & gynaecology

What is family planning?

Family planning is a wide topic that involves taking steps to control when a pregnancy occurs. It can refer to both fertility treatments for couple trying to have children and contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy.

Why is it done?

The reason depends on the type of family planning.

Family planning is important to avoid unwanted pregnancy. There are different contraceptive methods available to achieve this end, and this kind of family planning is often done between the couple. However, a consultation with a doctor may be necessary to weigh up what kind of contraception is best for you. For example, some women may be unable to take contraceptive pills for medical reasons, or condoms may not be an option due to latex allergies, etc.

On the other hand, if a couple is trying to conceive, they may consult a fertility specialist to find out why they are having difficulties getting pregnant or to plan how to optimise their chances of having a baby. It may be that one or both partners are infertile and may need assistance in getting pregnant.

What does it involve?

Family planning to conceive a child involves consulting a doctor, usually a fertility specialist or gynaecologist, who may run tests to find out why a couple is having trouble conceiving. This could involve:

  • Semen analysis (men) to check for low sperm count and abnormalities, such as poor movement.
  • Blood tests can test that the correct hormones are being produced (women)
  • Ultrasound scans and X-rays can be used to check the physical health of the reproductive organs and search for any blockages, e.g. in the fallopian tubes (women)
  • Both sexes may be tested for STIs like chlamydia, which can affect fertility.

Depending on the results of the tests, the doctor may advise different methods to maximise the chances of the couple having a baby, and will plan with the couple how they should proceed.

In some cases natural family planning will be advised. This simply involves having the woman monitor the signs of fertility in her menstrual cycle to know when she is ovulating, and therefore when is the optimal time to have sex.

In other cases, some sort of fertility treatment may be necessary or the couple may be advised to try options such as IVF.

Conversely, family planning to avoid unwanted pregnancy largely involves contraceptive methods, such as condoms or similar barrier devices, the contraceptive pill, or, again, using the natural family planning method to determine when the woman is ovulating and avoid having sex at that time.

Benefits of family planning

Family planning carries several advantages:

  • It allows a couple to plan and have more control over when they have their children, which can be good for health, economic, or personal reasons.
  • It gives couples the ability to control the number of children they have, and the spacing between them.
  • It reduces the need for abortions of unwanted preganancies
  • Some contraceptive methods used, such as condoms, also help prevent the spread of STIs.
  • It can help couples with below-average fertility to have a baby.
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