Family planning is an integral part of reproductive and family health and a key factor in reducing maternal and infant mortality as well as complications of abortion. Yet an estimated 232 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, due to inadequate knowledge, lack of access to information or services.
Family planning allows couples to achieve their desired number of children and determine the spacing of pregnancies by choosing a method. This has a great impact on the promotion of women’s health and wellbeing of the family at large. This includes a wide range of contraceptives; pills, implants, intrauterine devices, irreversible surgical procedures, and barrier methods such as condoms – as well as natural methods such as the calendar method and abstinence. Family planning also includes information about how to conceive.
There are different methods of contraception, including:
Long-acting reversible contraception
This involves implant or intrauterine device (IUD)
- Intrauterine device
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small contraceptive device that is put into the uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy. It is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy but does not prevent STI which can last for 5 and 10 years depending on the type. However, the device can be removed anytime and chances of conceiving become normal. It should be inserted by skillful personnel to avoid complications such as perforation.
IUDs affect the way sperm movement and survival in the uterus, stopping it from reaching and fertilizing the ovum (egg). IUDs can also change the lining of the uterus to be thickened thus, stopping sperm from getting through. It can also affect ovulation by changing the hormones that cause an ovum to be released each month. Note: There is a little risk of infection after insertion; therefore personal hygiene should be strictly maintained.
The implant is a tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick that contains hormone (progestin) which is released slowly into the body. thus, preventing pregnancy. The rod is inserted under the skin of the upper arm and works for 3-5 years depending on the type. Progestin thickens the mucus on your cervix, which stops sperm from swimming through to your egg. When sperm can’t meet up with an egg, pregnancy can’t happen. Progestin can also stop eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), so there’s no egg to fertilize. When eggs aren’t released, pregnancy is impossible.
Short-acting hormonal contraception
This include the pill or the injectibles.
There are two types of the pill: combined oral contraceptive pill and progestogen-only contraceptive pill
One pill should be taken each day at the same time. It is effective at preventing pregnancy if you take it correctly.
These are hormonal contraceptives that should be gotten every 2 or three months depending on type adopted. Types are noristerat and Depo Provera. It is an effective contraceptive if not missed.
- Emergency contraceptive pill
The ECP should be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex for effectiveness. However, Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy if normal contraception fails e.g. condom splits, missed injection, or miss more than one contraceptive pill.
This is a method that blocks sperm from entering the vagina. The two barrier methods are:
- Male and female condoms
Condoms have a dual function; prevent unintended pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infection. It is effective if used properly. The expiry date should be checked before use, wear on an erect penis, remove after and discard properly.
Permanent contraception, sometimes called sterilization, prevents all future pregnancies. It is very difficult or impossible to reverse. Permanent contraception is either a vasectomy or a tubal ligation.
Natural family planning
Natural family planning (or “fertility awareness”) is a method of contraception that involves monitoring and records of different fertility signals during the menstrual cycle to work out when pregnancy can occur.
There are 3 different fertility signals one can monitor which are:
- the length of your menstrual cycle
- Daily body temperature
- Changes in cervical secretions (cervical mucus)
Benefits of Family Planning
1. Prevent pregnancy-related health risks
Family planning allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women. It reduces the increased risk of health problems and death from early childbearing. It prevents unintended pregnancies among young and older women who face increased risks related to pregnancy thus preventing maternal mortality.
2. Reduced infant mortality
Family planning can prevent closely spaced and ill-timed pregnancies and births, which contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. Infant’s mothers who die as a result of giving birth also have a greater risk of death and poor health.
3. Prevent STI
Male and female condoms provide dual protection against unintended pregnancies and STIs including HIV. It also reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among people living with HIV thus resulting in fewer infected babies.
4. Empowering people and enhancing education
Having smaller families allows parents to be productive and invest more in each child. Children with fewer siblings tend to enjoy educational stability than those with many siblings.
5. Reduce adolescent pregnancies
6. Controlled population growth