Family Planning Versus Birth Control: What’s the Difference?

There is a lot of language overlap under the topics of family planning and birth control. Some people claim they are two terms for the same thing, but really they do have some distinct differences.

Birth control is a collection of methods used to avoid unintended pregnancy. These range from condoms and IUDs to permanent sterilization or the pill. Emergency contraception (EC) also falls under this same category. If you’re ever wondering if something would be considered “birth control,” just ask yourself this: “Would I use this to keep from getting pregnant?” If the answer is yes, then there you go. Pretty straightforward stuff.

On the other hand, family planning is the concept of actively planning if, when and how many children you plan to have. It’s the idea that pregnancies don’t just happen to you, but instead are decisions that you make for yourself. Your life and your choices are completely up to you, so being honest with yourself and discussing your options openly are good places to start.

Family planning often includes counseling, helpful information and services that help ensure you only become pregnant when you want to be. As a part of family planning, couples may practice withdrawal (pulling out) or use the calendar or rhythm method to ensure they only have sex when you are not ovulating. These methods are good, but not as effective at preventing pregnancy as most other forms of birth control.

So to sum up, family planning is a larger concept involving preparation and knowledge around your “family future.” And birth control is the group of methods you use or steps you take to avoid pregnancy before you’re ready.