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Family planing leads to health babies
Health advice
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Today’s economy has caused many young couples to delay starting their families. Not only must they take into consideration the need for additional education to improve job skills, but there continues to be major instability in all job areas. No one can predict what tomorrow will bring — bankers and lawyers as well as hourly wage laborers continue to receive pink slips without compensation. The economy is certainly an important thing to consider if you are thinking of starting a family now.
It is one thing to consider whether it’s time to get married, to have a baby or to upgrade a house or car. It is quite another to not give any thought to planning these important events — especially the decision to have a child.
Babies shouldn’t “just happen” — they should be desired and eagerly anticipated. And to have healthy babies, mothers need to be in good health themselves, free of sexually transmitted disease and taking folic acid. Couples should be certain their relationship will last, they should be committed to each other and they should be able to provide a stable home for a tiny, totally dependent baby. The parents-to-be have to be prepared for all the responsibilities that come with helping a child grow into a responsible adult.
Today’s couples need to prepare ahead of time and understand what family planning and birth control options are available to them until the time is right to start a family.
According to the Georgia Department of Community Health’s family planning program’s Web site, “Family planning is essential to the well-being of women, men, adolescents and the community at large. It offers individuals opportunities to plan and space their pregnancies in order to achieve personal goals and self-sufficiency.”
When thinking about adding a new member to the family, parents should ensure the home is smoke and hazard-free, that healthy eating is a priority — including 400 mcg of folic B vitamin supplements in the mother’s diet — and that moms-to-be stop or reduce caffeine intake and stop alcohol and drug use.
Couples who want to become pregnant need to make an appointment with their physician to go over medications they are taking, health disorders and family health histories. Couples also should understand the role age plays in delivering a healthy baby. There are other things to consider, such as reducing stress during pregnancy and spacing out births. Pregnancies too close together can be harmful to the mother’s health.
The following birth control options are available for use until a couple elects to become pregnant:
• Abstinence: 100 percent effective.
• Cervical cap: 60-90 percent effective. A cervical cap is a soft rubber cup like device that fits snuggly around the base of the cervix.
• Male condom: 86 to 97 percent effective. Condoms are an over-the-counter barrier method of birth control.
• Depo-Provera: 99 percent effective. Depo-Provera is an injection given every three months.
• Oral contraceptives (“the pill”): 95-99 percent effective. The pill emits synthetic hormones to stop ovulation.
• Diaphragm: 80-94 percent effective. This rubber cup with a flexible rim covers the cervix.
• Birth control patch: 95 percent effective. A small patch sticks to the skin and releases synthetic hormones to stop ovulation.
• Emergency contraceptive pills: 74-89 percent effective. These pills are used after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It is most effective when used within 12 hours of unprotected intercourse or contraceptive accident.  
This list is a simplified version of what parents-to-be need to know. If you wish to delay the start of your family, talk with your health-care provider, do some research and be informed.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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