Docs Want Women to Plan How Many Kids They'll Have

A group of medical experts weighs in on why every woman should have a reproductive plan in place, based on her personal needs, values and lifestyle.

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The American College of Obstetricians (AGOC) has something to say about reproductive life planning: The group believes that all healthcare providers, and especially OBGYNs, have a significant role to play in helping to determine how many kids, if any, their patients have.

According to a committee opinion released by the group, every time an OBGYN comes into contact with a patient, she has an opportunity to discuss that person's reproductive life plan. The group defines this as "a set of personal goals regarding whether, when, and how to have children based on individual priorities, resources, and values."

The truth behind unplanned pregnancies

The committee opinion also share an alarming statistic: Approximately 51 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. We tend to believe this is due to limited access to contraception, inconsistent use of protection, or even lack of education—and while these are certainly major factors, a lack of planning also accounts for many cases of unplanned pregnancy.

But an abundance of unplanned pregnancies isn't the only reason the committee suggests putting a plan in place for every fertile patient. There's also the fact that women need to do their part to ensure they're as healthy as possible before and between pregnancies.

Thinking long- and short-term

The one key question they suggest doctors ask is simple: "Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?" With that being said, the actually process of putting a plan in place involves several other factors. ACOG recommends that each woman think about not just a short-term plan, but a long-term roadmap as well. Medical professionals should also provide contraceptive advice, share information about all available contraceptive methods, educate women on the importance of child spacing, make women aware of affordable contraceptive options and support initiatives that break down racial, socio economical and ethnic inequalities that contribute to unplanned pregnancy rates.

"Thanks to the wide range of contraceptive methods available, we are able to meet the varied health needs and preferences of women, from preventing initial pregnancy to aiding in birth spacing, for example through postpartum insertion of long-acting reversible contraception," said Wanda K. Nicholson, M.D., in a statement from the group. "By including conversations about reproductive preferences in every interaction with our patients, we are acknowledging the essential role that birth control has in a woman's well-being."

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