Family planning allows women to make informed choices regarding when and if they decide to have children. Ultimately, it's your choice to figure out which method, if any, you'd like to use to control reproduction. Knowing both the advantages and disadvantages of family planning methods may help you come to a decision regarding which option is right for you.
The term "family planning" generally refers to methods undertaken that allow women to control when they get pregnant. Frequently, family planning refers to hormonal birth control, such as the pill, injectible birth control, birth control patches and implants. Condoms, contraceptive sponges, diaphragms and spermicide are also frequently used as family planning methods. Finally, natural family planning, also called the rhythm method, requires no pills, hormones or devices. Instead, women monitor their menstrual cycle and refrain from sex during times of the month when conception is most likely to occur.
According to the California Department of Health Services Office of Family Planning, family planning reduces the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions among women, and allows women the opportunity to choose when the time is right to have a child. Family planning gives women the option to wait until they are financially able to care for a child, and gives them time to pursue educational and employment goals without worrying about the financial burden of an unplanned pregnancy.
The side effects of hormonal birth control may stand out as a disadvantage for some women. While many women regularly use contraception without experiencing side effects, complications can and do occur. The most common side effects associated with hormonal contraception include weight gain, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Less common but more serious side effects include stroke, blood clots and ectopic pregnancy.
Though natural family planning poses no health risks, this method is among the least effective at preventing pregnancy, according to the National Women's Health Information Center. Out of 100 women who use natural family planning, approximately 25 will become pregnant.
According to a report in the November 2003 International Journal of Cancer, using oral contraceptives for five years or more reduces a woman's chances of getting ovarian cancer in the future. Birth control pills also reduce the risk of ovarian cysts, and certain brands of oral contraceptives may also help clear up acne, regulate or lessen menstrual flow, and reduce menstrual cramps and other premenstrual symptoms.
Perhaps most important, family planning can help save the lives of both women and children, especially in third world countries. "Family planning programs have a tremendous impact on the reduction of maternal mortality, " says Yves Bergevin, M.D., coordinator of the Thematic Fund for Maternal Health. According to the United Nations Population Fund, every eight minutes a woman dies during an unsafe abortion, and approximately 2.7 million newborn deaths could be prevented each year through birth control.
Family planning doesn't just benefit individuals. A woman's ability to choose the number of children she wants to have reduces overpopulation and reduces the economic impact of overpopulation. According to the California Department of Health Services Office of Family Planning, the average woman would experience approximately 12 to 15 pregnancies in her lifetime if birth control didn't exist.
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