Natural Family Planning

A baby sometimes comes quite unexpectedly, catching his parents unprepared. But having a child can be a carefully planned process. When a woman decides to have a baby, she can make that happen and vice versa – a couple can avoid pregnancy if they don’t want a child right now. This process is regulated by a key factor called fertility awareness. It is a combination of methods to determine the natural clockwork of a woman’s body in order to find out when is the best time of the month that she can try to get pregnant. This is also known as Natural Family Planning /NFP/, the Sympto-Thermal Method, the Ovulation Method and the Billings Method. Read on to learn how natural family planning works.

What Is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning is a method which can help a couple decide when their sexual relations can lead to pregnancy. In this way, depending on whether they want to have a baby or not, they either intensify their sexual intercourses or refrain from sex during that period. The key factor, which determines a woman’s readiness to get pregnant, is her menstrual cycle. One cycle is about 28 days long, but sometimes may be around as long as 35 days. During this cycle the woman’s body goes through various changes. The most important of them is ovulation. This is the process when the egg is separated from the ovaries, ready to be fertilized. Normally, ovulation occurs on the 14-th day of the menstrual cycle. It’s good to know that an unfertilized egg cannot live longer than a day. So if a couple wants to have a baby, they should have sex around the day of ovulation.

How Does Natural Family Planning Work?

Natural Family Planning is a strategy based on very simple and inexpensive rules. It is safe to apply, but all the requirements and instructions must be fulfilled very strictly. Three methods of natural family planning are most widely used.

1.      The Mucus Method

With this method the days preceding ovulation are determined by testing woman’s cervical mucus. During the period of ovulation the cervical mucus is stretchy, clear and slick. It looks and feels like a raw egg’s white.

2.      The Symptothermal Method

This method requires that the woman measures her basal body temperature with a thermometer each day and writes it down on a chart. During the period of ovulation the basal body temperature rises slightly – about 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  The woman also checks her cervical mucus, as in the Mucus method.

3.      The Rhythm Method

This method is based on comparing menstrual calendars of previous cycles. The use of this method, though, is quite limited because it is applicable only for women with strictly regular cycles, which is quite rare. Fluctuation and slight changes in the cycle are normal, due to external factors or the psychological state of the woman. Therefore, the Rhythm method is not as reliable as the Mucus or the Symptothermal method and is not widely recommended.

Are There Any Physical Signs of Ovulation?

Your fertility period may be identified by paying attention to other functions of your body. Fertility and ovulation are sometimes tracked or noticed by women who experience a change in the cervix, feel a slight pain in the area of the left or the right ovary, softening of the cervix, breast tenderness, back ache, bloating and increased sensitivity in the breasts. Click to learn more about ovulation signs.

What About Women Who Have Irregular Cycles or Who Are Breastfeeding?

Quite a lot of women have irregular cycles – either longer or shorter than 28 days. They can still find out when they are ovulating by tracking the changes in their body. Mothers who are breastfeeding their babies can also detect their ovulation periods. Their gynecologist will explain to them how they can do that.

The following video can explain more on methods of natural family planning and tips for you to increase chances of fertility or to better practice contraception:

What Is the Effectiveness of Natural Family Planning in Avoiding Pregnancy?

Common practice shows that if methods are applied correctly, the effectiveness rate is about 90-98 percent, which means only 2-10 couples who don’t want children get pregnant in practicing this method. Couples have to be diligent and persistent in order to achieve their goal. True, the tracking of the ovulation period involves mundane procedures which have to be performed every day but the positive result at the end is worth the effort.  

What Are the Pros and Cons of Natural Family Planning?

As most things in life, family planning has both positive and negative aspects.

Among the positive points are:

  • It is quite cheap or even free. It doesn’t involve any drugs or complex medical procedures. There are free training sessions available at health centers, pregnancy services and some churches around the country;
  • Due to lack of medication or outside intervention, natural planning has no side effects whatsoever;
  • Natural planning does not affect man’s or woman’s reproductive abilities in any way;
  • You don’t have to go to a doctor, which obviously saves time. Besides, there are no drugs or medication to be taken, so the body is not stuffed with chemicals;
  • Does not involve the use of estrogen which can be harmful for the heart;
  • Natural planning is acceptable for couples who for some religious reasons refuse using contraception;
  • The couples can define for themselves the best time to have a child. On the other hand, if the moment is not suitable for having a child, they can postpone it until it gets ripe;
  • This strategy is highly effective if the rules are followed strictly and consistently.

The negative sides include:

  • The methods must be followed with much attention and consistence;
  • Natural planning involves periods of abstinence or taking contraception for about one third of the month;
  • Every process and change must be tracked down strictly and the results meticulously written down;
  • Natural planning proves to be rather challenging for women with irregular cycles.