What is family planning, and why is it important?
Family planning refers to the steps you take to prevent or delay getting pregnant, or the ways to achieve a successful pregnancy. There are many benefits to family planning, including:
- Having children when you are ready
- Being able to prepare financially for your children
- Being healthier before and during pregnancy
- Having a healthier baby
- Avoiding an unplanned pregnancy
- Deciding when to start a family
Family planning methods include abstinence (not having sex), natural family planning and all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Family planning services include counseling and education, preconception care, screenings and laboratory tests, and help determining the family planning/contraceptive method that’s right for you.
Part of good family planning involves allowing time between pregnancies. Being pregnant and having a baby takes a toll on a woman's body. Researchers believe babies born too close together are less healthy because the mother's body has not fully recovered from the previous pregnancy.
Children born too close together are more likely to:
- Be born early
- Be too small and underweight
- Have a greater chance of becoming sick
- Have a greater chance of dying
How long should you wait before having another child? The healthiest babies are born to women who wait at least 18–24 months after giving birth before getting pregnant again. Using a contraceptive method helps you control the amount of time between births.
Family Planning Clinics Can Help
The Tennessee Department of Health offers family planning services in every county health department clinic. The clinics are staffed by doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses. The staff are specially trained to provide education; counseling; medical histories; physical assessments and treatment, if needed; and contraceptives.
Family planning services are provided on a sliding fee scale, based on family size and income, and they are free for persons below the federal poverty level. No one will be denied services due to an inability to pay. Clinics offer services for women, men and teens, and all information is kept private.
Click here to find the local health department clinic in your county.