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Core Components of Community Family Planning Services

Family planning is a health strategy couples can use to help manage the number of children they have, as well as the length of time between pregnancies. For most couples, family planning will at some point involve preventing pregnancies indefinitely. Other elements of family planning touch on potential health risks that might negatively impact women after they become pregnant, especially in the case of unintended pregnancies. Several aspects of family planning services extend beyond birth and involve care to infants and young children. There are eight core components of family planning health services.

Contraceptives are useful tools when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies. The word “contraception” literally means the act of preventing pregnancy, so many products, services, and strategies fall under the heading. Contraceptives have changed considerably over time and are highly popular among the American public: 65 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 use some form of contraception regularly, such as birth control pills, and 90 percent of women have used some type of contraceptive during their lives. Meanwhile, nearly 25 percent of women and more than 33 percent of men responding to a national survey said they had used a condom during sexual intercourse within the preceding 12 months.

Preventing pregnancy is only one aspect of family planning. Individuals who are prepared for a child can pursue a variety of pregnancy testing and counseling services. For some families, these testing and counseling services may take place over an extended period and involve referrals to medical specialists who can help ensure a safe pregnancy and healthy newborn. For others, pregnancy testing simply involves a physician officially confirming a pregnancy.

Over the course of testing and counseling services, it may become clear that a person may benefit from preconception health services and other methods of helping people achieve pregnancy. Preconception is a highly personalized area of health care that involves doctors examining different systems of the body and doing everything in their power to increase a patient’s chances of becoming pregnant and delivering a healthy baby. Preconception health care is important for any woman who plans on becoming pregnant, not just individuals who have struggled to achieve a pregnancy. Preconception support can also be tailored to men, which often involves maintaining long-term health so men can provide for their families well into the future.

Families still struggling to achieve pregnancy following standard preconception health services may benefit from more advanced infertility support. Infertility is a complex, diverse sector that includes donor egg programs, embryo implantation technologies, and assisted hatching services.

Not all family planning services directly involve planning for or preventing pregnancy. Family planning service providers typically offer education, counseling, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus.

Finally, individuals can benefit from several family planning medical testing services that do not involve pregnancy. Physicians can mitigate risk and help patients maintain health through breast and pelvic exams, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings. Family planning, at its most basic, takes the form of counseling and patient education services. Individuals can use web tools such as Bedsider to locate Department of Public Health-funded family planning programs in their community.