Did you know that 65% of women in the US who are of reproductive age use contraception? We live in a society where it’s normal for people to take control of their sexual lives, with both the knowledge and the tools available to do so. In other words, we’re incredibly lucky.
But when you’re knee-deep in medical school, family planning might take a backseat in terms of your priorities. That’s why we’re here to help you get back on track. Learn how to balance family planning with your studies, giving you the peace of mind that you’re in control of your life.
What is Family Planning?
Before we dive into how to balance family planning alongside your medical studies, let’s take a quick look at what it is.
In simple terms, family planning involves taking steps to either prevent pregnancy or to conceive. It’s the conscious decision of whether or not you want a child at this moment, and then the necessary steps to make your decision more likely.
For people who want to fall pregnant, family planning is a fantastic way to boost your chances of conception and gain insight into your reproductive health. This is particularly true if you’re struggling to become pregnant, in which case the steps you’ll take under family planning could increase your likelihood of conceiving.
For medical students who are too busy to think about having children or who have decided they don’t want them now or in the future, family planning is crucial to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Quick Tips for Family Planning
Let’s start with some quick tips for managing family planning. We’ll go into each of these further in the guide, too, but if you’re short on time then this is a good place to start.
If you’re using family planning to prevent pregnancy, then be sure to:
- Get to grips with the different contraceptives available
- Speak to your doctor about the right contraceptives for you
- Start tracking your (or your partner’s) cycle using a period-tracking app
- Look into the rhythm method as a family planning aid
If you’re using family planning to help you conceive, then:
- Book an appointment with your doctor to check your reproductive health
- Look into different methods to encourage conception
- Look into the rhythm method to track ovulation and increase your chance of pregnancy
Family Planning Tips to Prevent Pregnancy
If you’re sexually active and don’t want to have children, family planning is essential. Even when you’re busy with medical school, taking the time out for these tips can save you a lot of stress and worry down the line.
With that in mind, let’s jump in.
Looking into all of the reversible contraceptive choices available is a smart way to take control of your reproductive health. Some options are easier to keep up with, too, and let you get on with school without adding another daily task to your to-do list.
There’s the coil for women (also known as an IUD), for example, which takes the stress out of contraception for busy students. It’s inserted straight into the cervix and can remain active for between 5 to 10 years, releasing small amounts of copper into your womb to prevent contraception.
After that initial appointment to get the coil, you won’t have to worry about preventing pregnancy until it’s time to have it changed, making it a great option when you and your partner are busy with studies.
Other reversible options include:
If you’re not sure which is right for you, speak to a health professional who can give you the information you need.
Tracking Your Cycle and the Rhythm Method
If you’re a woman who uses condoms, has trouble with hormonal contraceptives, or is looking for added protection to prevent pregnancy, it’s a good idea to track your menstrual cycle. That doesn’t sound ideal when you’re balancing the stress of med school with family planning, but it’s actually very simple!
You can use a cycle tracking app, for example. By inputting the dates of your period, it can give you a rough approximation of when you’ll be ovulating so you know when to take extra precautions (e.g. condoms). Some apps also take your temperature, using it to indicate you’re ovulating for more accurate results.
Family Planning Tips to Conceive
For medical students actively trying to get pregnant, worries about conception can add stress to your already busy life. With family planning, though, you’ll regain some control.
To boost your chances of conceiving, let’s take a look at some stress-free tips.
Speak to a Reproductive Health Specialist
If you’re struggling to conceive or simply want to understand more about your reproductive health, a trip to a gynecologist or fertility specialist is key. They can run the right tests to look at your reproductive health and give you tailored advice.
Some of the tests they might ask you to do include:
- Semen analysis for men (to monitor sperm)
- Blood tests for women (to monitor hormones)
- Ultrasounds and X-rays for women (to check physical reproductive health)
- Testing for STIs that can affect fertility
After the results of your tests, your specialist can then give you personalized advice that can increase your chances of conception. You’ll feel more in the know, and your reproductive health will be in good hands.
Track your Ovulation Using the Rhythm Method
For women, knowing when you ovulate (the rhythm method) gives structure and organization when you’re trying to conceive, helping you find that all-important balance. By knowing which times of the month you should be trying, the rest of the month can be spent focusing on your studies.
Menstrual tracking apps are a great way to try out the rhythm method. Simply log the information asked for into your app (e.g. when your period starts, when it finishes, and your daily temperature) and get notifications for when you should be trying. Soon, you’ll be tracking your ovulation without even thinking about it!
Managing the Challenges of Family Planning While Studying
Whether you want to get pregnant or not, managing family planning while studying is going to be a balancing act. To help you out, we’ve put together some top tips:
- If you take the contraceptive pill then set up a repeat prescription (delivered to your door if possible)
- Use a phone timer to remind you or your partner to take regular contraceptives (e.g. the pill or the patch)
- Practice open communication about family planning with your partner
- Talk to your partner about ways they can help with family planning (e.g. with a joint tracking app so you can both monitor your ovulation)
If you find the stress of family planning alongside medical school too much, remember that help is always available. Certain forms of therapy, including CBT, can aid in managing stress and coping with negative emotions, making you feel more able to tackle all the tasks in your life.
There’s no denying that medical school can be a stressful time, but don’t let that push your reproductive health down your list of priorities. Instead, use the tips you’ve learned here to make family planning simple. With good communication, an appointment with your doctor, and a little time to track your or your partner’s cycle, you’ll find balancing the two becomes a lot easier.