Table of Contents
What is Family Planning
Family Planning – The process of intentional decision making around having children. Family planning encompasses choices in regard to PREGNANCY, ADOPTION, and not having children. Factors that influence family planning include general health, FERTILITY, personal preferences, religious beliefs, and lifestyle matters such as partnership status and work or career demands. In the United States about half of all pregnancies are intended. One million unintended pregnancies occur in teens. The US government’s program of health goals HEALTHY PEOPLE 2010 calls for the availability of appropriate resources (such as education and contraceptive methods) so that all pregnancies are intended.
Methods of Family Planning and Contraception
Planning pregnancy prevention (CONTRACEPTION) and pregnancy (conception) are equally important. More than a half dozen methods of contraception are available, from abstinence and cyclic timing (rhythm method) to sustained-release HORMONE regulation. The choice of contraception should consider availability, ease of use, rate of success, and personal preferences of sexual partners. The most common reason for failure of any given contraceptive method is failing to use it. However, the only certain method for preventing pregnancy is abstinence (not having SEXUAL INTERCOURSE). No other method of birth control is 100 percent certain to prevent pregnancy, though methods such as TUBAL LIGATION and VASECTOMY (operations to produce permanent sterilization) come close.
A key aspect of pregnancy planning is birth spacing—the amount of time between the births of children. From a health perspective, three years or more between births is optimal for both maternal and child health. This spacing allows the mother to fully recuperate between pregnancies as well as to provide the attention that each child needs. Siblings who have three or more years between them are in different developmental stages for most of their childhood years, requiring different kinds of attention. Providing adequate attention to each child is more difficult when their ages are so close together that their needs are similar. Birth spacing requires either abstinence or some form of contraception between pregnancies to prevent unintended pregnancy.
People may choose adoption (acquiring legal responsibility for a nonbiologic child) as an option for resolving INFERTILITY or because they feel it is a personally desirable or socially responsible approach to creating a family. Other people may choose to have no children, opting instead to define family in other ways.