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Too often, you might hear the words, “family planning” and have a flashback to the days of middle school sex education. What sounds like a bit of a stiff term to define such a life-altering decision is actually a large part of our mission as fertility experts.
Family planning is the process of preparing yourself for getting pregnant in the short and the long-term. It depends on a few things:
Whether you’re actively trying to conceive or just beginning to dream about a future family, you’re in the throes of family planning.
Modern medicine has given us the incredible technology to freeze both eggs and embryos, which means family planning today is a much different landscape than a few decades ago. Your fertility doctor can’t tell you exactly what the best path for your family will be as you choose when and how to have children, but as you begin planning for your family, there are many things you’ll want to consider.
In this guide, we’ll walk through a few of the key parts of family planning, procedures you might choose based on your situation, and how technology has shaped our ability to have the families we’ve dreamed of within reach.
The most common misconception about family planning is that you need to wait until you’re actively ready to have children until you begin to consider your options and take action.
The sooner you begin your family planning, the better--even if having children is not in your immediate future. If you often prioritize other life goals, like a job promotion or a move, then you might miss your main window of fertility.
With new health guidelines , we're not conducting yearly pap smears for young women. And if you feel your time with your current doctor is often very brief when you do go, you may not feel like you fully understand your own fertility or have proactive counseling about this window.
Another common misconception about family planning is a possible religious connotation of “family planning” as a phrase.
Many people think family planning is a specific method of fertility control. But it’s really a broader term that applies to any type of family that chooses one of the many possible options for birth control, fertility treatments, and growing a family.
While we can’t give you an exact answer to this question, your fertility team should be able to give you the tools you need to make the best decision possible.
If you're not looking to get married or have children until later in life, it might be worth looking into freezing your eggs now, especially if you’re in the window of 29-31 years old with your fertility likely at its peak.
However, if you'd like to have children sooner, you might start trying as soon as you’re ready and then consult a fertility specialist if you aren’t able to conceive within about 6 months. You can always freeze your eggs or embryos now and try naturally later, but you will then have the frozen eggs to use in future fertility treatments if you’d like to.
Typically, if intercourse is timed around ovulation (both before and immediately after), your chance of getting pregnant is around 20-25% per cycle. But if you don't know anything about your reproductive health, your situation and percent chance could be very different.
In the first year of consistently trying to conceive for someone under 35 years old, about 80% of people should get pregnant. After 35 years old, and having tried for 6 months or more, you should see a fertility doctor right away because time is more of the essence.
If you're over 40, it's beneficial to see your OB/GYN or a fertility doctor as you start trying in order to better understand your reproductive health and not waste any time.
If you are having trouble conceiving or you decide it’s time to visit with a fertility specialist, your team should conduct a comprehensive work-up to determine any roadblocks to your fertility. After this, you’ll develop a customized plan with your doctor to move forward and restore your fertility.
This might include intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or other procedures to address specific conditions, such as ovarian cyst or fibroid removal.
There are certain conditions that we believe are essential to catch early and correct with surgery in order to decrease their impact later on. For instance, if we catch fibroids early on and are able to remove them, we may be able to do so in a same-day, minimally invasive surgery versus a more serious procedure later on.
There are other conditions that are harder to detect unless you've looked for them, such as uterine congenital defects or uterine septum that can cause infertility or miscarriage. We cannot discount the surgical correction of anatomical issues that can restore your natural fertility or can assist medicated treatment cycles.
Egg- or sperm-freezing is not for everyone. But anyone who is delaying their fertility should consider it. As the years go by and the field becomes more mature, we hope any stigma associated with this type of family planning fades.
Let's say you choose to proactively freeze your eggs at 30. You have a healthy child naturally at 33 after a few months of trying. In your mid- to late-30s, you're breastfeeding. A few years later, you want to try to get pregnant again at 37. While you conceived naturally easily with your first child, you might find it much more difficult now. Thankfully, you froze your eggs years ago, and you can now proceed with alternative fertility treatments as your own “egg donor.”
If you need to pursue other options like IVF or surrogacy, you might face more intense or expensive treatment plans--but great family planning now will definitely ease the road to these options later on.
The first concrete step you can take in your own path is to truly get to know your own reproductive health. By visiting your doctor or working with a fertility specialist, you can get a fuller picture of the potential roadblocks you might come across in terms of your own body.
From there, a fertility specialist can also help to counsel you based on your life goals, financial situation, and any questions you might have about any diagnoses or conditions that came up during your fertility check-up.
Make an appointment with us today to talk through your goals in having a family and to better understand your unique reproductive health.