Why Men Need to Take Initiative in Family Planning

In the past, family planning was often considered to be a woman’s responsibility. However, many women would like their male partners to be more involved. These days, more men care about family planning and are interested in making decisions with their partner.

Birth control for men

The main purpose of family planning is to enable couples to have their desired number of children, at a time of their choosing. Family planning can also improve the chance that the baby will be born healthy. Couples can use family planning to delay having children until both partners are emotionally and financially ready.

Although women have often taken the lead in family planning, men have just as important of a role to play in making decisions about which contraceptives to use and when.

However, there are currently many more birth control options available to women, including pills, patches, sponges, injections, IUDs and vaginal rings. This may be one reason why men have been rarely involved in family planning in the past.

Currently, men have five options for birth control: vasectomy, condoms, abstinence, withdrawal and other sexual activity that keeps sperm out of the vagina. Men can also participate with their partner in “natural family planning” or fertility awareness-based methods.

Benefits of family planning for men

Even if men do not actively participate in family planning, if they are sexually active they are involved. By taking the lead in family planning, men can have more control over when they become a father.

They can also protect themselves — and their partner — from sexually transmitted diseases. Being involved is also a way for them to support the health and well-being of women, especially their partners'.

There are other benefits of men’s involvement as well. When a man participates in family planning decisions, a couple may be more likely to use contraceptives correctly and consistently. This is especially true if both partners learn about family planning.

Talking about family planning can be awkward or difficult for some couples, but when men participate in these discussions, the couple’s overall communication often improves.

Getting men involved in family planning

Involving men in family planning means encouraging them to take a more active role in making decisions about which contraceptive method to use.

When given the right information and the opportunity to communicate with their partner, men can effectively participate in family planning decisions.

This can pay off in the long run. Research has shown that men who have greater awareness of birth control methods have better opinions of these methods and are more likely to use contraceptives. Men who learn about family planning are also more likely to support their partners' use of these methods.

However, men may not have the same preferences and needs as their wives or girlfriends. In addition, they may not visit a family planning clinic on their own, although they may accompany their partner on her visits. Clinics that offer male birth control methods — such as condoms or vasectomies — may be more successful in attracting men.

Updated July 12, 2016

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