What is Family Planning?
Maybe you’ve heard the term “family planning.” Maybe you have no idea what it means. Family planning is a bit complex.
Basically, family planning services are educational or medical services that allow men and women to take charge of their sexual health. That includes everyone—whether you identify as male or female; whether you are in a relationship or not; whether you are gay, straight, or bi. If you’re having sex, family planning is anything that empowers you to protect yourself. And if you’re not having sex, it still helps you prioritize your health.
The services that fall under family planning include:
- Contraception. Contraception includes anything that prevents pregnancy. Women can get a wide variety of birth control methods. The best known method is the Pill, but the same protection can be attained with a shot, an implant, an IUD, or a birth control ring. Your family planning provider can help you choose the right one for you. It’s important to know that many methods of contraception DO NOT protect against STDs. But at family planning health centers, everyone can get condoms which, when used correctly, are 98% effective against preventing pregnancy and STDs.
- Testing for STDs. Experts suggest regular testing for STDs – once a year, at least. Philadelphia’s no or low-cost family planning health centers offer testing. Different STDs require different types of tests. It can include blood tests, urine tests, or a test that uses a swab to take a sample from the body (e.g., the cheek or the cervix). Testing is easy and rarely painful.
- Treatment for STDs. Treating STDs should be done as soon as possible to avoid passing the infection on to other partners and, in the case that an affected woman is pregnant, to protect the baby from becoming infected. Most STDs can be treated simply with antibiotics, which you can receive at a no or low-cost family planning health center. Others, like herpes and HIV, unfortunately remain in the system and can be transmitted, but antiviral medications can treat symptoms and prevent the infection from growing worse.
- Screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Breast exams and Pap smears are simple tests that can help detect breast and cervical cancer. Finding cancer early can make treatment more effective and, ultimately, may save your life.
- Counseling—especially for pregnant girls and women. When you are pregnant, you may have a lot of questions about your care. At low and no-cost family planning health centers, you can speak to a counselor about your future.
These services are either free or come at a very low cost. For close to 50 years, the U.S. government has set aside funding for family planning. The program, called Title X, makes it possible for us all to receive high-quality family planning services and other preventive health care. And, right here in Philly, there are more than 25 no or low-cost health centers that you can visit any time for family planning services.
For more information on Philly’s no or low-cost health centers,
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