What is family planning and is it right for you? | Tri-County Sunday

Facing pregnancy and fertility issues can be challenging without proper guidance from a healthcare provider. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or you want to delay or prevent a pregnancy, family planning helps you take control of your fertility health needs.

Family planning helps you navigate your choices on contraception, permanent pregnancy prevention, natural family planning and fertility issues. Since fertility care is a highly personal decision and unique to each individual, an OB/GYN specialist will carefully assess your needs based on your health, lifestyle and personal beliefs to develop the best family planning methods for you.

How to begin natural family planning.

Natural family planning is a non-invasive way to manage your fertility health needs. Also known as fertility awareness, natural family planning relies on your awareness of what is going on in your body. It involves identifying the signs and symptoms of fertility during your menstrual cycle so you can plan or avoid pregnancy.

“Fertility awareness combines the calendar method, basal body temperature and cervical mucus methods, and it is useful for preventing pregnancy or increasing the chance of pregnancy,” said Kelly Snyder, DO, FACOG, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Penn Highlands Life’s Journey OB/GYN.

In the calendar method, you track your menstrual cycle to predict your most and least fertile days. You have to track the length of your cycle for at least six periods before using it as a form of birth control. The calendar method is most effective when you combine it with basal body temperature and cervical mucus methods.

Basal body temperature is a sensitive measurement that can help you monitor your ovulation. The shift in your body temperature that happens during your menstrual cycle can be used to find the fertile window (when you can get pregnant).

The cervical mucus method is based on careful observation of mucus patterns during your menstrual cycle. By recognizing changes in your cervical mucus, you can try to pinpoint when you’re likely to ovulate and most likely to conceive.

How to navigate infertility issues.

Worldwide, infertility affects about 12% of couples who are seeking to have a child, about 2% who have never had children and about 10% who have had children previously.

“Family planning can help prevent infertility and provide counseling for women facing fertility issues,” said Dr. Snyder. “One of the primary ways we prevent involuntary infertility is by counseling clients about preventing sexually transmitted infections and treating signs and symptoms of STIs.”

There are other successful treatments for infertility, including medications and procedures that treat common causes of infertility, such as endometriosis or fibroids. Women may also benefit from hormone treatments and medications that increase ovulation.

In addition, you can talk to an OB/GYN specialist to discuss other options, such as sperm freezing for men and in vitro fertilization for women.

How to safely prevent pregnancy.

If you choose to prevent pregnancy now but may want to become pregnant at some future time, there are many birth control options to consider, including oral contraceptives, hormonal implants, injections, birth control patches, intrauterine devices, vaginal rings and barrier methods.

“Before recommending a birth control method, we carefully evaluate the situation on an individual basis, considering any medical contraindications or related concerns,” said Dr. Snyder.

Most forms of birth control are reversible. Once birth control is stopped, you may get pregnant right away or it may take several months to return to your regular menstrual and fertility cycle.

“By investing in family planning, you improve the health outcomes not only for yourself but also your child and family,” said Dr. Snyder.

Penn Highlands Life’s Journey OB/GYN offers personalized, patient-centered care for women in all stages of life and health. The team of experts includes gynecologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives and other specialists in the field of women’s reproductive health. For more information, visit www.phhealthcare.org/lifesjourney.

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