Natural and artificial family planning are two ways of controlling your family size. Some couples use no birth control method and may have many children. Whether you desire to be child-free, have just one child or space your children several years apart, a family planning method can help.
According to Linda Gordon, author of "The Moral Property of Women," mankind's efforts to regulate or control reproduction is common to "virtually all known societies." From the earliest nomadic days, when small families were easier to relocate, to agricultural families needing many children to help with the farm, the desire to choose the size of your family is not new. Natural family planning attempts and barrier methods were common before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first form of the pill in 1960.
Natural family planning uses no outside methods to control family size, instead relying on a woman's fertility signs. Couples use no barrier methods, hormonal patches or pills, IUDs or sterilization surgeries. Couples using artificial methods have a choice of methods, including male and female condoms, sponges, spermicides, hormone shots, the birth control pill and ring. With the exception of sterilization, both natural and artificial planning methods enable you to switch methods. You can stop natural family planning and use an external method or discontinue an artificial method and use natural techniques.
The Office of Family Planning in California states that the benefits of family planning include having the ability to decide how many children you want, the spacing of the children and being able to prepare financially. Planning your family size also means you are "less likely to have an abortion" or an unplanned pregnancy. Couples utilizing natural family planning often work together and agree to abstain during fertile times when avoiding pregnancy. Artificial methods allow couples more freedom and less need for abstinence.
There are wide ranges of effectiveness among both methods. According to the University of Michigan Health System, surgical sterilization is the most effective method, with less than one pregnancy among 100. Hormonal implants, IUD's and hormonal injections give over 97 percent protection. Birth control pills and the ring are about 92 percent effective. Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms and the sponge range from 68 to 85 percent in effectiveness. Fertility awareness, or natural family planning is about 75 percent effective. Within each method, the effectiveness is highly dependent on the commitment to consistently using birth control.
Examine your lifestyle when deciding which birth control method to use. Follow the recommendations from Northern Arizona University and consider how an unplanned pregnancy will fit into your life. Think about your partner and the ease of the method. If you know you eventually want children, ask your doctor how easy it is to discontinue using your chosen method. Natural family planning has no side effects, but chemical and hormonal methods do. Consider the financial cost and whether insurance covers your doctor's appointments.