Natural family planning

How To: Natural Family Planning

Natural family planning, sometimes referred to as fertility awareness, is a unique method of birth control that doesn’t rely on drugs or devices. This method, lauded for its lack of side effects, requires an in-depth understanding of one’s body and menstrual cycle.

What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural family planning (NFP) is a method of birth control that involves monitoring various bodily signs to understand when you’re likely to conceive. This method can be used when trying to achieve pregnancy by identifying the most fertile periods for intercourse. Alternatively, it can serve as a contraception method by pinpointing the days to avoid unprotected sex.

NFP is completely natural, making it a preferable choice for those who want to avoid hormone-based birth control methods or those who have religious or personal beliefs that prevent the use of artificial contraceptives.

How Does Natural Family Planning Work?

The effectiveness of natural family planning hinges on understanding one’s menstrual cycle. In a typical menstrual cycle, an egg is released from the ovaries, known as ovulation, and travels down the fallopian tube. This usually occurs around the same time each month.

The egg can live for up to 24 hours after ovulation, and a sperm must meet the egg within that period for pregnancy to happen. However, since sperm can live inside a woman’s body for up to 7 days, it’s possible to get pregnant if you’ve had sex in the days leading up to ovulation.

You can determine when you’re most fertile and more likely to conceive by tracking your menstrual cycle. This knowledge forms the crux of natural family planning.

Different Methods of Natural Family Planning

There are several methods involved in natural family planning. These methods usually focus on one or more signs of fertility, such as changes in body temperature, cervical mucus, or menstrual cycle patterns.

1. The Rhythm Method

The rhythm (calendar) method involves tracking your menstrual cycles to predict ovulation. This method is based on the fact that ovulation generally occurs around the same time each month, usually about 14 days before your next period.

To use the rhythm method, you must keep a daily record of your menstrual cycles for at least six months to a year. The objective is to identify your fertility pattern to know when you will most likely conceive.

2. The Basal Body Temperature Method

The basal body temperature (BBT) method involves monitoring your body temperature every morning before leaving bed. This is because there’s a small rise in body temperature after ovulation due to the release of the hormone progesterone.

For accurate results, your temperature should be taken every morning before you get up, eat, drink, or smoke, ideally at the same time. You’ll need a digital thermometer specifically designed for natural family planning.

3. Cervical Mucus Monitoring Method

This method involves observing the changes in your cervical mucus throughout your menstrual cycle. Before ovulation, your cervical mucus becomes clear, stretchy, and slippery, much like raw egg white. This type of mucus is conducive to sperm migration and capacitation, indicating that you’re at your most fertile.

Regularly checking your cervical mucus can identify these changes and predict when you’re likely to ovulate.

4. Symptothermal Method

The symptothermal method is a multimodal approach that combines the BBT and cervical mucus methods. This method provides a more comprehensive understanding of your fertility pattern, making predicting your most fertile days easier.

5. Standard Days Method

The Standard Days method is a modern approach to the calendar rhythm method. This method is most effective if your menstrual cycles are typically between 26 and 32 days long. Using this method, you can identify your fertility window and plan intercourse accordingly.

How Effective is Natural Family Planning?

The effectiveness of natural family planning varies among individuals. When used correctly and consistently, it can reach rates of effectiveness around 90%. However, the average use shows a failure rate of approximately 25%. This means that about 1 in 4 people who use NFP for birth control may become pregnant in the first year.

It’s essential to remember that the success of NFP heavily depends on the user’s diligence, commitment, and consistency. Although not all people can conceive with NFP, and if you are struggling with becoming pregnant after a year, have a follow up appointment with your healthcare provider.

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