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What is Family Planning?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term family planning is sometimes used interchangeably with the term birth control, although there are some differences between the two terms. While birth control is something anybody can use to prevent pregnancy, family planning is seen as something monogamous couples use to temporarily delay pregnancy. In this way, it is seen as a method to plan, rather than prevent, children. This method is seen as the responsible choice for couples who are not ready to have children in the present but may want to in the future.

Family planning includes all methods of birth control, from the pill to condoms, Intrauterine Devices (IUD), injectable hormonal contraceptives, and diaphragms, caps and spermicides. Depending on the area, it may also refer to methods used to terminate a pregnancy or possible pregnancy, such as abortion and emergency contraception. It may also refer to surgical sterilization methods, including vasectomies and tubal ligation; and to non-surgical methods of sterilization such as Essure®.

Family planning is also the term preferred by religious couples who do not approved of using artificial birth control methods to prevent pregnancy. In this case, the term refers exclusively to techniques such as temporary abstinence, the withdrawal method, or the rhythm method, in which no outside interference is used. While family planning clinics do not favor any method over others, they are usually able to accommodate most preferences and beliefs.

Family planning clinics in most countries offer these services either free or at low cost to everybody, including teenagers under 16 without parental consent. Aside from birth control advice, clinics may also offer free pregnancy tests, sexual abuse and pre-abortion counseling, no-scalpel vasectomy procedures, and information about sexually transmitted diseases. Most clinics do not deal with HIV patients, but would be able to provide a referral to those in need. Many offer a wide variety of counseling related to sexual health, from helping teenagers to choose the right birth control method to women in need of emergency contraception.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco , Former Writer
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.

Discussion Comments

By anon269440 — On May 17, 2012

Abstinence (chances of not getting pregnant): 100 percent.

It's all about refraining from vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse. There is really no risk of unintended pregnancy, no risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease and no risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease. So with these, there can be an assurance from worries and most of all, can test one's real feelings.

By istria — On Oct 15, 2010

@ GiraffeEars- I don't know if you have ever heard of the Malthusian theory. It states that human population increases exponentially due to the natural urge to procreate, while food supply can only increase arithmetically, which will eventually lead to starvation and famine. This theory highlights the dilemma.

Thomas Malthus, the person who came up with this theory, also thought about the different preventative and positive checks to exponential population growth. In the most frank terms, you can only control population through reducing the birth rate, or increasing the death rate.

The preventative checks Malthus theorized are promoting late marriage, abstinence, birth control, and homosexuality. The positive checks on populations (those that result in death, thus directly reducing population size) are disease, war, disaster, and famine. We are seeing all of these positive checks on population growth today, but to prevent the death of millions or billions, more preventative type population checks must be implemented. There is no one solution. Family planning centers can aid in this.

By GiraffeEars — On Oct 15, 2010

@ Istria- What types of controls can be people, governments, or families enact to control population growth? I understand that resources are limits to growth and can cause population overshoot to curve back downwards stabilizing populations, but what are the ways that our species can control population growth without the need for nature to self-correct.

By istria — On Oct 15, 2010

Family planning is such an important part of sustainability. Creating family planning services in the developing world is one of the best ways to stem population growth besides preventing hunger and educating women and underserved groups. In many poor countries, blocking access to education for women, including education regarding reproductive health, has led to exponential population growth that is predicted to add about 3 billion more people to the planet in the next 50 years or so. The planet has already surpassed its carrying capacity, and there are few options to solving the population crisis.

Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco

Former Writer

Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
Learn more
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