The Guttmacher Institute recently released a study entitled, “Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics: Identifying the Need, 2009.” In sifting through the sixty-nine page report, I learned it essentially states that both males and females are interested in receiving counseling on family planning and birth control, but that clinic administrators often underestimate this desire for joint counseling.
According to the report, some people believe a joint discussion on family planning will reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and alleviate the issue of misuse of contraception.
While women want services for couples, family planning administrators deal with limited funds, often underestimating couples’ desire for joint counseling. Men would go to joint counseling if they could fit it in their schedule but definitely want some form of birth control.
I read the information without much thought or surprise, except for one bit, when I finally connected with the data.
I remember when my friends and I were younger and first talking to our parents about the birds and the bees. A common theme amongst my friends was that if you giggled at the condom aisle, you probably weren’t mature enough to have sex. The other agreed-upon truth was that if you couldn’t talk to your partner about sex, then you shouldn’t be sleeping with them in the first place. For me, this survey echoed some of these ideas – if you can’t discuss family planning, birth control, or your health with your partner, why are you engaging in sexual acts with them?
I was not surprised that two-thirds of adult female clients wished to talk to their male partner about “planning to have a baby, choosing and using birth control, and talking about birth control.” But I was a little concerned that 19 percent of men felt uncomfortable at a family planning clinic and six percent even said they wouldn’t go with their partner. I couldn’t help but wonder, if a man can’t go to a clinic for a discussion, how is he going to survive the delivery room? Luckily, 83 percent of men did say they were willing to go with their female partner and 57 percent wanted to know more about preventing pregnancy.
Women’s health isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s a general health issue. Reproductive rights and health is a conversation we must all be willing to have. Everyone deserves to know where a partner stands on birth control and protection against sexually transmitted infections. Honest conversation, education and preparedness can help reduce the rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies.
So what do you think? Would you and your partner want the option to receive family planning services and counseling together?