Deciding to become a parent is a huge decision, and you shouldn’t take it lightly. Do you want kids now? Do you want to have kids later in life? Do you not desire children of your own?
No matter your stance on having kids, you must be responsible for your actions to stay on your chosen path. And while you can’t have complete control over every situation, there are ways to protect yourself from unwanted outcomes.
These are all things to consider as you get into the phase of life when becoming a parent is possible. Making this decision will take time, and your path to parenthood may look different than you think. But there are many options to help you make the choice that’s right for you.
Use Protection Unless You’re Trying to Conceive
When you are sexually active, there is always the possibility you could be exposed to a sexually transmitted infection. This is true no matter your sexual orientation. Be safe and use condoms to protect yourself and your partner.
In heterosexual relationships, condoms have the added bonus of helping protect against pregnancy. You can also use other forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Some companies even allow you to order birth control online and have it delivered to your house.
While using condoms is 85% effective, other birth control methods, such as an IUD, are up to 99% effective. If you’re not sure whether you want kids or want to wait, there are good options for avoiding conception. Don’t rush. Take your time to decide what’s right for you.
Once you and your partner decide you’re ready to try, you can stop using birth control and attempt to conceive. If you want multiple children but want to allow time in between, birth control assists with family planning as well.
And if you never want to have kids, consider a tubal ligation or vasectomy. If surgery doesn’t appeal, an IUD is a long-lasting birth control method.
Practice Open and Honest Communication
Be upfront with your partner about contraception and your health status before you enter into a sexual relationship with them. This can be awkward, but it’s worth it to keep you both safe and healthy. Knowing if your partner is using birth control — or not — may also prevent an unexpected pregnancy.
As you progress in a new committed relationship, have a discussion about kids to learn what each of you wants. Do you both want children? If so, how many? Does one of you want to have kids now and the other prefers to wait? Maybe neither of you wants to be a parent.
Whatever your views, it’s important for you and your partner to be on the same page. If one of you wants four kids and the other doesn’t want children at all, your relationship will struggle long-term.
If you’re both in agreement about having kids and ready to start trying, talk about the big issues. Discuss what you would do if it’s difficult to become pregnant. Are adoption or fertility treatments something you’d consider?
Having these open conversations allows you to be each other’s support during the process from conception to parenthood.
Understand Your Fertility Situation
If you decide that you want to have kids, it’s good to understand your fertility options. If you wait to start trying until later in life, it could take longer to get pregnant. Understanding what alternatives are available can help you make an informed choice for your family.
For instance, many women are waiting to attempt conception when they are older. However, after age 35, physicians consider it a high-risk pregnancy due to the mother’s age. If this is the case for you, be sure to talk with your doctor. If you get married at 36, for example, you might consider trying to conceive sooner than if you’re 23.
In some cases, conception could happen quickly no matter your age. However, the older you are, the fewer years you have to try. If conceiving is a challenge, there are other methods. Using a non-invasive medication may help with fertility. Or you might need to explore more in-depth options like IVF.
Some cases require using an egg or sperm donor. As you begin your journey, talk with your partner about how far you both are willing to go to conceive. It can be an emotionally painful journey.
Adoption, Surrogacy, and Fostering
Maybe you would like to have kids but don’t want to give birth yourself. Or perhaps you’re unable to have children naturally due to health reasons. You and your partner may be in a non-heteronormative relationship and feel called to be parents. You also don’t need a partner to have a child.
There are many approaches for creating a family. You could choose adoption or surrogacy. You might also open your home to foster children. Take the time to explore all of these alternatives. There are several ways to connect loving parents with children who need a home.
Whether you want kids at age 20 or 40, or if you’d like multiple or zero children, you have options. Use protection until you’re ready, practice open communication with your partner, know your fertility situation, and understand the non-biological alternatives.
Take your time and make the choice that’s right for you. Regardless of your stance on children, there are many factors you must consider. Learn to control what you can and be prepared for things outside your control if life throws you a curveball.