READY, SET AND…GROW (YOUR FAMILY THAT IS)

by | May 22, 2024

Perhaps you’re in a new relationship, but you both have no doubt you want to start a family together. Maybe you’ve been together for some time and are ready to start a family; before tiny, sweet cries fill your home and little feet toddle towards you, there’s an important conversation to have: family planning. It’s more than just birth control; it’s about openly discussing your desires for parenthood, exploring your options, and taking control of your reproductive health. While we know there’s never the perfect time, it’s a conversation that makes you more prepared. As an anonymous contributor pointed out: “Choosing when to have children is a privilege afforded by family planning.”

A Clear Picture of Your Goals

It may seem obvious, but family planning starts with open communication. Having said something to your partner two years ago in passing doesn’t count. Get comfortable. Grab your favourite drinks and snacks. Approach the conversation with an open mind. How many children do you see yourselves having? Is there an ideal age range for parenthood? Are you financially prepared for children? Discussing these big questions upfront helps ensure you’re on the same page. Remember, this may not be a once-off conversation. You may need to think about some things you may not have the answer for and return to it. 

Exploring Contraceptive Options

Once you’ve established your goals, it’s time to explore the world of contraception. Many methods are available, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Ladies, this is not just your responsibility, so include your partner. Here’s a quick rundown. Remember that for all health-related options below, consulting your healthcare practitioner is critical. 

  • Hormonal Methods: These options regulate hormones to prevent ovulation or fertilisation. The pill, patch, ring, and injection are popular choices, offering high effectiveness when used correctly. However, due to side effects or health conditions, hormonal methods may not suit everyone. 
  • Barrier Methods: Male and female condoms are an excellent option for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They’re readily available, user-controlled, and don’t require prescriptions.
  • Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC): IUDs and implants are inserted by a healthcare provider and offer long-term (years) protection with minimal maintenance. They’re highly effective and reversible, making them a good choice for couples who are confident about their family size.
  • Natural Family Planning: This approach involves tracking your menstrual cycle to identify fertile and infertile windows. While effective with perfect use, natural family planning requires discipline and may not suit everyone’s lifestyle. The Family Planning Association (FPA) of South Africa (https://fpasa.org/) offers resources and workshops on natural family planning methods.

Consulting a Healthcare Provider

Your doctor or nurse at the local clinic can discuss your medical history, answer questions about specific methods, and recommend the best option for your needs. Don’t hesitate to ask about side effects, effectiveness rates, and how each method might impact your sex life.

Beyond Birth Control: Preconception Health

Now, understand that family planning is not just about preventing pregnancy but about It’s also about optimising your health for a future pregnancy. Both you and your partner can benefit from preconception counseling, which focuses on:

  • Healthy Habits: Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and enjoying a balanced diet is important for both parents’ health and future babies.
  • Vaccinations: Ensure you’re up-to-date on vaccinations like measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) to protect yourself and your future child.
  • Folic Acid: This B vitamin plays a vital role in foetal development; Folic acid is your friend ladies; start taking folic acid supplements at least three months beforehand.

As mentioned above, family planning is an ongoing conversation. Your needs and desires may evolve, so it’s crucial to revisit the topic regularly. Be open to discussing adjustments to your plan as your relationship and life circumstances change.

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