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.