Family planning used to be an absolute nightmare. If you were trying to avoid a pregnancy, you had to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist. They’d subject you to all sorts of invasive exams. They’d ask you tons of questions about your sexual history, and some would make judgy comments about the answers. All this, just to get a simple prescription that your pharmacist could legally refuse to fill.
If you were trying to get pregnant, it seemed like it was everyone’s business. Parents would ask at the dinner table, with no shame whatsoever, when they were getting grandkids. Folks would give you wild, unsolicited advice, like “hold your legs up in the air” or “drink cough syrup.” Thankfully, now, it’s easier than ever to make your pregnancy decisions in private. Here are some ways to make family planning simple and stress-free.
1. Get a Birth Control Subscription
Choosing a birth control method can be challenging. There are so many different kinds to choose from, and each has different pros and cons. If you have certain medical conditions or take other medications, you may need to consider this too. For example, if you have blood-clotting issues, you may need a progestin-only pill. Or if you’re prone to a lot of side effects, you might need something with a lower dose.
The good news is, you no longer have to go to the doctor or a clinic to get a birth control prescription. You don’t have to wait days or weeks for an appointment. Instead, you can schedule a quick online birth control consultation and get your pills delivered right to your door. If you need to change pills due to side effects, it’s much less of a hassle. You don’t even have to worry about the discomfort or embarrassment of an in-office visit, either.
2. Stock Your Cabinet
Condoms, pregnancy tests, and fertility tests can be expensive. And the selection at your pharmacy can sometimes be very limited. With more stores locking up common products, you may have to track down an employee and tell them what you need. Plus, there’s the awkwardness of running into a neighbor or colleague with a pile of condoms in your cart. And what happens when you’re in the mood, but you don’t have what you need on hand?
Instead of buying your family planning products at a brick and mortar store, consider getting them online. There’s much more variety online, including different sizes of condoms and options for vegans and people with latex sensitivities. If you buy large quantities, you can get lower prices too. Pregnancy and ovulation tests, in particular, are much cheaper online in bulk. You can also buy and store emergency contraception and keep it until you need it.
3. Keep Track of Your Cycle
Keeping track of your menstrual cycle is a great idea whether you’re trying to get pregnant or trying not to. Numerous apps are available to simplify the process. You enter in your periods, and most apps predict your fertility windows. Some smart watches can even measure your basal body temperature to predict periods and fertility. You can even set notifications to alert you when your period is expected or it’s the best time to have sex in hopes of conceiving.
If you prefer a lower-tech way of monitoring your cycle, you can study your cervical mucus. Hormones cause your mucus to change in color and texture throughout your cycle. When you’re most fertile, it will usually be thin, clear, and slippery. When it’s white, yellow, or cloudy, you’re probably about to ovulate. There are lots of resources online for tracking your cycle with this method.
4. Test Your Fertility at Home
Like everything else, fertility testing is a lot easier and simpler than it used to be. At-home female fertility tests are easy to get online. You can also order sperm count tests and take them at home. Sperm count tests can usually be analyzed at home, with the results delivered on the device or through an app. Female fertility tests, on the other hand, may show results at home or need to be mailed in for analysis.
Before choosing an at-home fertility test, you’ll want to do some research. Different female fertility tests, for example, test for different kinds of hormones. Some tests are designed to predict ovulation and current fertility levels. Others are designed to check hormone levels and analyze overall fertility. These can detect declining ovarian function or other signs that you may need additional help getting pregnant, if that’s your goal.
5. Take Good Care of Your Health
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid it, you’ll need to take good care of your health. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can help you get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. Nutrition and exercise are also important to keep sperm healthy. Staying healthy in general will keep your sex drive high, which is important whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not. Diet and exercise can also limit some of the side effects of birth control, like weight gain.
Whatever you do, don’t smoke, whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not. Smoking can lower your sperm count and cause erectile dysfunction. It can also affect female sex hormones and make it more difficult to conceive. Smoking is dangerous for anyone on hormonal contraceptives, because it can increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks. And if you conceive while smoking, it can cause birth defects.
Educate and Communicate
With so many options out there for family planning, it can be overwhelming choosing the right methods for your needs. But with so many resources available at your fingertips, it’s easy to get truthful, balanced information. Whether or not you’re trying to conceive, inform yourself about various methods and their risks and benefits. Talk to your partner — or partners — about your family planning goals. Only you can decide what’s right for you and your body; it’s no one else’s business anymore.