There is no right time to have sex, plan a family, or navigate pregnancy — your own or others. Still, you may find some consistencies when it comes to the types of questions or screenings you receive at the gyno. Yet, with everyone navigating their sex lives differently and following their own sexual timeline, it can be hard to gauge if there's one standard age that your doctor will ask you about pregnancy, across the board.
Don't get it twisted: when it comes to figuring out what's best for your body and sex life, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It is OK to have consensual sex without wanting or intending to get pregnant. It is OK to never choose to give birth. It's also OK to want to have your own kids or to help someone else to start their family (shout out to Phoebe Buffay and Andy Cohen's surrogates). You deserve to make your own informed choices about your family planning, as well as respect and support from your medical providers about these decisions.
"If a patient feels pressured or judged, they should find another health care provider who they are comfortable with their family planning choices," Dr. Sherry A. Ross, Women’s Health Expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells Elite Daily. When addressing your sexual health and potential family planning, it's important to be transparent and open with your doctor. Of course, this can only be possible when you feel comfortable and supported by the doctors that you are seeing. Dr. Sheila Loanzon, obstetrician and gynecologist, reaffirms the importance of keeping gyno appointments judgement-free zones, especially when it comes to family planning, "Often, a physician may ask a patient regarding future child bearing, not with judgement or pressure but just to make sure we are offering the best medical care possible at your age" Dr. Loanzon says.
But is there one specific age that you can expect all the family planning questions to start? According to Dr. Ross, it can totally depend on the doctor. "The conversation around getting pregnant or future fertility with egg freezing really depends on the doctor a woman is seeing," Dr. Ross says. "Often the conversation begins after a woman has questions around when to start family planning is put into motion." According to Dr. Loanzon, the age doctors will begin to ask about pregnancy is really any age that the patient is able to consider pregnancy. "Patients who are at a reproductive age have an opportunity to get pregnant. Once a young person starts to have their period (menarche), they are considered reproductive age. The average reproductive age is 12 years old (the average start of menarche) to 51 years old (the average age of menopause)," Dr. Loanzon says.
Since sex and family planning looks different for every patient, it's difficult to find a standard time that pregnancy questions can arise for all. But when it comes to relationships and family planning, Dr. Loanzon attests that the marital status of a patient shouldn't impact their doctor's likeliness to talk family planning. "It is common standard practice for doctors to ask about family planning and thoughts of pregnancy regardless if someone is married or not — relationships can be fluid and may change from office visit to visit," Dr. Loanzon says. "It is best medical practice to ask the patient's plans so the appropriate discussions, precautions, and counseling can occur." Rather than a standard age for pregnancy questions, Dr. Loanzon suggests that doctors will meet with each patiently individually, and discuss their own plans and intentions.
How does birth control factor in? According to both experts, using contraception does not mean that your doctor will not talk to you about pregnancy. Rather, gynecologist appointments can become a chance to discuss how a patient is feeling about their birth control method, as well as their plans for the future. "The discussion may not necessarily be linked to a conversation about future plans of pregnancy, however this is the opportunity for the patient to mention what their plans in the near future may be," Dr. Loanzon says. Dr. Ross agrees that birth control shouldn't derail conversations about family planning, "Being on birth control doesn’t necessarily mean the conversation of family planning should not happen. Maternal age is often the number one reason to start talking about family planning," Dr. Ross says.
Of course, if you don't want to get pregnant, and never intend on carrying a child, it's OK to tell your doctor that as well, no matter your age. "If a patient does not want to have children it’s best to tell their doctor and just be completely honest," Dr. Ross sats. Dr. Loanzon shares that a patient may still engage in a conversation about pregnancy during their visits, even if they've decided that they do not want to bear children. "If your decision to not bear children has been pre-determined and is not fluctuating, certainly let your provider know and understand it is routine practice to ask every patient at every routine visit," Even within her routine practice, Dr. Loanzon shares that she reminds herself of her individual patient's needs and decisions, while still giving her patients room to change their minds, "My routine office practice is to note in the protected electronic medical record future reproductive plans to communicate to myself as a reminder what the patient would like to pursue in the future," Dr. Loanzon says. "It is still my practice to check in every routine visit to ensure your opinions haven't changed."
Just as there's no one right time to have a child, there's not necessarily one right age that your doctor will begin asking you about pregnancy. If you are able to get pregnant, regardless of your current contraceptive methods, it may be standard practice for your doctor to ask you about family planning whenever you meet. Of course, when it comes to your body and sex life, it's always OK to ask your doctor about anything that comes to mind — no matter your age.