Focus on Family Planning

The cost of education in the country has been increasing at almost 10% per year, according to Statistics SA. The resources required to raise a child become more significant as the times change. Programs such as Family Planning are designed to help couples properly prepare in all aspects before they become parents.

Besides financial implications, having a child requires resources such as: time, social (access to a stable support structures as a parent), environmental (making sure your living space is child-friendly). Family Planning gives couples a chance to adjust and plan for this big change in their lives. As we focus on female health in the month of February (Femme-uary), special awareness around Family Planning is also raised. It has a significant part in a woman’s overall health.

“Traditionally, family planning is when a couple controls how many children they wish to have, as well as the timing of the pregnancy. This involves the use of birth control and other methods, to help the couple stick to their plans”, says Dr Rains, a general practitioner at NHC Health Centres (note to editors: please refer to company as indicated).

Family planning methods usually include sex education, birth control (e.g. contraceptive pills, patches, injections, vaginal rings, implants, or intra-uterine devices), prevention and management of STIs, pre-conception counselling and infertility management. Family planning may also include male or female sterilisation, as well as termination of an unplanned pregnancy. Related to this, your medical practitioner should be advising annual pap smears to screen for cervical cancer and offering information with regard to HPV vaccination.

Most General Practitioners offer Family Planning services. It is advised that any woman who is sexually active seek advice from their doctor regarding Family Planning.

In 2014 the Department of Health launched the “biggest family planning programme in the country”, which included the launch of the subdermal contraceptive. This match-sized contraceptive is available to women at both public and private healthcare facilities.

Dr Rains: “Family planning may help empower a woman and give them control over their body. She will be able to prevent unplanned pregnancies, as well as control their circumstances leading to motherhood.”

I advise that the couple work towards adopting healthy lifestyles such as exercise, weight loss where relevant, no smoking or alcohol use. The use of folic acid pre-pregnancy also needs to be emphasised.

Family planning is not only limited to the traditional way of a couple procreating. There are other resources available, such as surrogacy, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation or adoption. Your doctor may refer you to the relevant source according to your needs.

Some couples use Family Planning as soon as they enter marriage, they may feel that they would like to financially prepare for having a child. Their doctor will be able to advise on them the different contraceptive options available, to suit their lifestyle. Family Planning is not a one-size fits all solution, it is best to speak to your doctor and get the best advice according to your circumstances.

“This Femme-uary, any woman that is sexually active or considering having a baby is encouraged to seek the necessary professional advice. This is will help guide them in making the best decisions for not only themselves, but for their future children as well,” says Dr Rains.

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