Family planning is the ability for a woman and/or couple to plan and anticipate their desired number of children and the spacing and timing between their births. This is possible through the use of natural and contraceptive methods that prevent unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. There are many benefits to family planning, including promoting healthy spacing between pregnancies and social and economic well-being.
There are many family planning options available. Every woman’s body is different, and what works for one woman may not work for another. It’s important to find an OB-GYN you feel comfortable with to talk about your specific needs and concerns when understanding preventive pregnancy care.
Moreland OB-GYN is an independent practice with physicians, medical professionals, and staff who believe in safe and reliable access to family planning services. We are compassionate individuals who care about each patient and take the time to discuss all birth control options available to women and couples. A birth control consultation can be scheduled to discuss all options for the best fit possible.
Natural family planning (NFP) methods involve identifying the most fertile days of a woman’s cycle. This is done by paying attention to her cycle length and physical signs of ovulation. Couples then actively avoid intercourse or use barrier birth control methods during this time.
Natural family planning methods involve using one of three methods to determine when ovulation (the release of the egg) occurs and avoiding intercourse during the ovulation period.
Standard Days Method involves keeping close track of how long the time is between a woman’s periods so a couple can predict when she begins ovulating, which is two weeks before her period starts. Couples should abstain from sexual intercourse five days before and three days after the estimated start of ovulation (days 8-19 of the menstrual cycle).
This works best for women who have regular menstrual cycles that are 26 to 32 days long. It’s important to understand if a woman has more than one menstrual cycle per year shorter than 26 days, or longer than 32 days, the method’s effectiveness significantly decreases.
Ovulation Method is also called the vaginal mucus method because it involves detecting changes in a woman’s vaginal mucus. While using this method, a woman will pay close attention and write down the changes in her vaginal secretions throughout her cycle. This includes its color, elasticity, amount, and thickness. When the vaginal mucus becomes thin and clear, ovulation is occurring, and intercourse should be avoided for three days.
Symptothermal Method requires a woman to measure her basal body temperature upon waking every morning. When her BBT rises ½ to 1-degree, this means she is right around her ovulation phase. This method is often used along with the vaginal mucus method. By using these two methods together, a couple can confidently determine when they are fertile and should abstain from intercourse.
Research has shown NFP methods are over 90% effective when they are used perfectly and consistently. This percentage drops to about 80% if they are used casually and not exactly as directed. They are not as reliable as the use of hormones (estrogen and/or progestin) taken in a pill or by injection, so these methods should only be used in long-term monogamous relationships.
It’s also important to know NFP methods do not protect against the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Many non-hormonal birth control methods carry fewer side effects than hormonal options. These methods are often considered “barrier methods” because they physically prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. They are a great option for women who do not wish to change their body’s natural cycle, who do not have frequent intercourse, or are looking for a backup method along with their hormonal birth control.
Condoms roll onto the penis and keep the sperm inside the condom. This is the only birth control method that, when used properly, protects against HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. They are also the most readily available and most affordable form of birth control and are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Spermicide is a liquid, foam, or film substance that’s inserted into the vagina with an applicator before having intercourse. It works by killing the sperm before it reaches the egg. It’s strongly advisable to use Spermicide with a condom because it offers poor pregnancy prevention when used alone. Like condoms, Spermicide is a less expensive form of birth control and is readily available.
A diaphragm is a dome-shaped silicone cup that’s inserted into the vagina hours before having sex. It works as a physical barrier for the cervix to block the sperm from reaching the egg. It must always be used with Spermicide to be most effective. The type of diaphragm that will work best depends on the shape of a woman’s pelvis and her vaginal muscle tone. A woman will need to visit a healthcare provider to be properly fitted and get a prescription.
Being up to 99% effective, hormonal contraception options are the most reliable form of birth control when they are used correctly.
Oral Contraceptive Pills (OCPs), also known as combination birth control pills, contain both estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. The combination of these hormones stops a woman from ovulating, meaning it prevents the ovaries from fully developing and releasing an egg. It also thickens the mucus inside the cervix (making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg) and thins the lining of the uterus (preventing a fertilized egg from implanting itself).
Progestin-Only Pills (POPs), often called the mini-pill, only contain progestin. The dose is also smaller compared to the dose in the combination pill. Much like the combination pill, the Progestin-only pill works by thickening the cervical mucus so the sperm can’t reach the egg. It also thins the cervical lining, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. This pill also stops ovulation, but not as consistently as the combination pill – making it about 95% effective. Because this option does not include estrogen, it does not carry as many side effects as the combination pill. The pill must be taken at the same time every day. If a pill is delayed or missed, you may experience breakthrough bleeding and need to use a backup method of protection.
Depo-Provera contains progestin and is injected deep into the buttock or upper arm. It’s given every three months by a nurse or doctor. Its effects are similar to the progestin-only pill when preventing pregnancy. This method may be a convenient choice for women who struggle to remember to take the pill every day. Although, it’s still important to remember to schedule follow-up shots every 12-13 weeks, as being late with a shot could result in pregnancy.
NuvaRing is a small, flexible plastic ring that fits inside the vagina and administers both estrogen and progestin into the body. It works much like the pill in its effectiveness for pregnancy prevention. The NuvaRing is inserted once a month. It stays in the vagina for three weeks and is then removed for one week when a period will occur. This process is repeated every month.
Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus. It’s used as long-term contraception and is a very effective birth control option. The device is inserted by a healthcare provider and can last up to 10 years unless removed earlier.
There are two types of IUDs available: hormonal and copper. The hormonal IUD contains progestin, which is released into your uterus and has similar effects as progestin-only pills when preventing egg fertilization and implantation. The copper IUD does not contain hormones and will not alter a woman’s natural cycle. It works by releasing copper into the uterus and creating a toxic environment for sperm, preventing the sperm and egg from meeting.
Permanent family planning methods are used to prevent pregnancy permanently. They involve minor procedures that sterilize a man or woman. While these procedures can be reversed, they may not always be successful.
Tubal Ligation, also known as “having your tubes tied,” is a procedure where the fallopian tubes are closed off through being tied, banded, clipped, sealed with electric current, blocked by scar tissue from small implants, or completely removed. Learn more about this procedure now.
By closing off the fallopian tubes, an egg will no longer be able to travel to the ovaries while also disallowing sperm from traveling up the fallopian tubes to reach the egg. The procedure does not affect your monthly menstrual cycle.
Vasectomy is a male procedure where the vas deferens is obstructed to prevent sperm from entering the semen. The vas deferens tubes are the tubes the sperm travels through on its way out of the man’s body. Once the tubes are tied, sperm can no longer exit or be ejaculated. Following the procedure, it will take 15-20 ejaculations to completely clear the tubes of sperm, so it’s important to continue using birth control methods. Learn more about vasectomy now.
Based on your individual preferences, your Moreland OB-GYN can work with you to determine the right family planning option for you.
At Moreland OB-GYN, we specialize in gynecological and obstetric health care and prioritizing the needs of our patients. We hope you’ll connect with us to help answer your questions, and we hope you’ll turn to our experts as a trusted resource for information.