Family planning (FP) is an important part of our lives that should be addressed and managed with care.
For those who are in relationships, it’s important for both partners to be fully involved in the family planning process.
What is family planning?
It’s the practice of managing, controlling and planning the number of children an individual female or couple has.
The planning includes the management of intervals between having children.
Types of family planning
There are many types of FP that can be used and I will advise you on which type is best for you.
Several factors need to be taken into consideration when selecting the right type of FP for my patients; there is no one size fits all option.
Below are some examples of family planning options for the female patient.
A progesterone only injection can be given every 8 or 12 weeks. The progesterone prevents the release of the egg each month (Ovulation) and also thickens the cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to move through the cervix.
There can be a delay in getting back to fertility after stopping the injection.
A hormonal patch is applied to your abdomen, buttock or upper arm once a week, starting on the first day of your menstrual cycle.
After every 3 weeks you will be patch free for one week to allow menstruation. The patch releases oestrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy.
There are various oral contraceptive combinations and depending on your individual needs and circumstances, I will advise which will be most suited to you.
Oral contraceptives work by releasing synthetic oestrogen and progesterone in order to prevent ovulation while thickening cervical mucous in order to obstruct the sperm’s pathway towards the ovaries.
The intrauterine device is a small t-shaped device. Plastic IUDs release the hormones required to prevent egg implantation and copper IUDs release ions which kill sperm.
Copper IUDs do not release any hormones and therefore have no hormonal side-effects. Once removed, you will be able to conceive immediately.
The contraceptive implant is a tiny, thin rod that contains the hormone progesterone that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm.
It stays in for 3 to 5 years, after which it will be removed and replaced if required.
How effective are these methods?
Above methods of family planning are about 99 percent effective if used correctly.
If a couple have made a decision not to have any more children, they can decide on a permanent form of family planning such as a vasectomy in a man or a tubal ligation (surgical “tying” of Fallopian tubes) in a woman.
These are sterilization procedures and are permanent. It is safer for the man to have a vasectomy than for the female to have a tubal ligation.
It’s important to always remember that family planning does not protect the individual against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HPV (human papilloma virus) and hepatitis.
In new relationships, condoms should be used to protect against STIs even if the sexual partner is on a form of FP.
Purpose of FP
The main goal of FP is to take the necessary measures to prevent unintended pregnancies as well as to improve female health.
Because raising a child requires many resources in the form of time, money and environment, it’s essential to plan for the right time to fall pregnant.
The FP process allows you to make sure you are ready to have a child and to adequately provide for your child.
Benefits of family planning
- Parent/parents plan and prepare properly for their child
- Mothers regain their health after child birth
- Prevent unintended pregnancy (either unwanted or mistimed)
- Prevent potential health risks associated with pregnancy and child birth
- Avoid too many births for one mother
- Create time for the care and attention needed to raise a healthy child
- Create time for partners to spend together both before and after child birth
- Prevent maternal and new born mortality
Dr Fatima Parker – General Practitioner in Claremont
I graduated at University of Cape Town in 1998 and have many years of experience as a general practitioner.
I also do pap smears as well as treatment and counselling regarding sexually transmitted infections.