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Family Planning Options When You're Done Having Kids

The key to family planning is...well...planning. Seems simple, right? But what sort of planning do you need to do when you know you're done having kids?

A recent Bayer survey found that more than a third of women polled had a pregnancy scare after deciding they were finished having children. So, this summer, Bayer HealthCare and HealthyWomen launched the Family Size Matters initiative to help educate women about their family planning options, including permanent birth control.

"Different birth control methods work well for women in different stages of their reproductive lives," says Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, a board certified OB-GYN. "Birth control pills might be right for you when you are starting your family, and permanent contraception might be the right option for many patients who are done having children."

Seventy-two percent of the women who were surveyed as part of the initiative said they're interested in permanent birth control methods that are non-daily and non-hormonal. In other words, they want a birth control solution that doesn't rest on remembering to take a pill every day.

According to the Office on Women's Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, permanent birth control options for females work by closing or blocking a woman's fallopian tubes. That way, eggs can't travel to the uterus. There are two primary forms of permanent birth control:

  • For females: Surgical sterilization is done with tubal ligation—often referred to as "getting your tubes tied"—which is when the fallopian tubes are surgically closed, either by burning or severing the tubes or blocking them with a clip. It is performed under general anesthesia in a hospital.
  • For males: Vasectomies are performed in a doctor's office. The scrotum is numbed with an anesthetic, so the doctor can make a small incision to access the vas deferens, the tubes through which sperm travels from the testicle to the penis. The doctor then seals, ties or cuts the vas deferens.

"It's so important that women are educated about all their options and discuss them with their partners and doctors," Gilberg-Lenz says.

Before you head to the doctor, you'll need to ask yourself some hard questions before you officially retire from reproducing. If you're in a long-term relationship, you'll need to bring your partner into the discussion.

Here are some things to ask yourselves:

When you're 100 percent sure you're ready for a permanent form of birth control, here are some questions you can ask your doctor:

  • Is a permanent birth control option right for me?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • How effective are permanent birth control options?
  • What are the risks involved in these options?
  • What is the recovery time?