Planning a Family
New Birth Control Alternatives
Ironically, when it comes to contraception, couples have more
options today, and thus greater control over at least one component of family
planning. In about the last year, the pharmaceutical industry has spawned a
wave of new alternatives for women, which include:
- A new type of intrauterine device (IUD), called Mirena, which can be left
in place for up to five years. It contains the hormone levonorgestrel, which is
gradually released over the life of the T-shaped device.
- Lunelle is a once-a-month injection of synthetic estrogen/progesterone
hormones. Despite the convenience of not taking a birth control pill each day,
Lunelle does require a visit to the doctor every 28 to 30 days for a new
- The first contraceptive patch, called Ortho Evra, delivers a steady stream
of estrogen and progestin through the skin, and is replaced every seven days.
Worn under the clothes on the buttocks, upper torso, or abdomen, it will become
available sometime in 2002.
- A vaginal ring, called NuvaRing, is a small, flexible ring that will soon
come on the market, and provides a low dose of estrogen and progestin over a
Does Size and Spacing Matter?
The trend toward women starting families later (or not at all)
-- along with the availability of more birth control methods -- does not seem
to have made much of a statistical impact on family size in the U.S. According
to a recent CDC report, analyzing data from 2000, the average number of
offspring born to women over a lifetime was 2.1, compared with fewer than two
children per woman during most of the 1970s and 1980s.
With the help of contraceptives, some parents continue to try
to space out their children in what they consider the most appropriate
intervals, although Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate with their family
planning. Many child psychologists advise that three to three-and-a-half years
between children is optimal.
"While a 2-year-old child is very insecure, and thus a new
baby in the family is more likely to cause competition and sibling problems, a
child by age 3 is better able to share a parent successfully," says
Peterson, author of Making Healthy Families and An Easier